Ministers Postpone Debate on Bill to Legalize Migron Outpost

Bill would condition eviction of Jewish settlers from land purportedly owned by individual Palestinians on a court ruling.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation postponed for three months the debate on a bill that would condition eviction of Jewish settlers from land purportedly owned by individual Palestinians on a court ruling.

Right-wing MKs - including coalition chairman Zeev Elkin (Likud ), one of the bill's sponsors - had pressured the committee to discuss the subject today, since the High Court of Justice has ordered the unauthorized outpost of Migron to be demolished no later than March 2012.

Migron - reuters - 11/2011

Another of the legislation's sponsors, Yaakov Katz (National Union ), said Sunday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "ordered the ministerial committee to postpone the debate by three months to allow the uprooting of Migron. I have therefore decided to submit the legislation to the Knesset on Wednesday."

The bill would allow the military to remove settlers from their property only if there has been an order to do so - based on evidence of Palestinian ownership of the land - by a court authorized to deal with such cases.

Danny Dayan, the chairman of the Yesha Council of West Bank settlements, was in contact with the committee's members yesterday, and declared that the governments' decision to postpone the debate constitutes "complete abandonment of the government's responsibility. The bill strengthens the rule of law and human rights, and should have been decisively supported. The current situation is absurd and intolerable. Today a captain in the Civil Administration can decide to demolish a community. According to the bill, only a district court judge will have that right. Doesn't that make more sense?"

Yariv Oppenheimer of Peace Now said: "Even Prime Minister Netanyahu understands that the evacuation of Migron is the basic duty of a law-abiding and moral state, and all the hallucinatory bills trying to authorize stealing, will fall to the will of Israel to remain a democracy."

Meanwhile, some ministers offered Migron residents the option of moving the outpost by a few hundred meters. If the settlers reject the offer, the Defense Ministry will begin preparations to demolish the outpost within a few weeks.

PM under pressure

In the past few months, settlers have been pressuring some cabinet ministers to prevent the demolition of the outpost and the ministers have, in turn, been pressuring Netanyahu. In October the prime minister declared he would create a judicial panel that would review the subject, but the attorney general said he would oppose a panel dealing with any issue that had already been decided by the High Court. The committee was never established.

Minister Benny Begin (Likud ), in the meantime, has been continuing his own negotiations with the settlers in Migron. Begin has offered the residents a new compromise: moving the outpost to an adjacent area considered to be absentee property.

A minority of Migron residents agreed to this compromise, as did the Yesha Council of settlements, but most of the Migron residents are continuing to demand that the state find a way to legalize the outpost.

The head of the local council, Avi Roeh, recently wrote a letter to Netanyahu, demanding that Begin be replaced with another minister who will try to find a way to legalize the outpost without moving it. The settlers have also persuaded leading religious Zionist rabbis like Haim Druckman and Shlomo Aviner to sign a letter opposing any compromise.