Senior IDF Officer: Migron Outpost Demolition Would Harm Stability

Outpost is due to be evacuated by end of March according to High Court ruling, but officer says evacuation might 'blur the distinction' between inhabitants and more extremist settlers.

Evacuation of the Migron outpost would harm stability in the area, a senior IDF officer from the Central Command warned Tuesday. The outpost is to be evacuated by the end of March according to a ruling of the High Court of Justice.

Such an operation would require thousands of soldiers and policemen that would have to evacuate the settlers and dismantle all the homes. Talking to the press Tuesday, the officer said that demolishing Migron would be different from routine evacuation of outposts, and would be "like the disengagement" from the Gaza strip.

Migron settlement
Michal Fattal

The officer said that evacuating outposts such as Migron or Givat Asaf, populated by dozens of families, might "blur the distinction" between the inhabitants and more extremist settlers, who the IDF is trying to isolate. The move could lead to a "change in the security stability" in the area, the officer said.

The officer added that the IDF has yet to begin its preparations for the evacuation. "Obviously, it will trigger reactions on the ground," the officer continued, "but that shouldn't be an operational consideration."

The officer's position reflects the IDF's reservations at being involved in the evacuation of outposts. In September, before the army demolished three homes in Migron, GOC Central Command Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi recommended that the operation be postponed, and that the three houses be demolished together with the rest of outpost at the end of March.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak rejected the idea, and ordered the three houses to be demolished. The IDF still hopes that the political pressure and negotiations will bear fruit and that the outpost will be evacuated by consent.

Political maneuvers around the outpost continue. Minister without Portfolio Benny Begin, charged with negotiating with the settlers, is trying to strike a deal that would move the outpost a few hundred meters away, to a location known as the "Yekev Hill."

Begin's position is supported by Likud ministers Dan Meridor and Michael Eitan, while several other prominent Likud members, headed by Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, support legislation that would legalize the land remaining in Jewish hands. Migron's settlers have so far refused to budge in talks.

Livnat visited Migron Tuesday and heard the settlers' fears and grievances.

"There should be a legal regularization of the outposts in Judea and Samaria, with the participation of their inhabitants," Livnat said. "Uprooting them without regularization would be undemocratic and immoral," she added.

Livnat said that the inhabitants settled there are driven by a sense of obligation and mission, with the support of former governments, without harming anyone and not as a provocation, and called on the government to "show responsibility."

The minister told the settlers that she understood from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he intends to create a task force of lawyers, already known as the "outpost task force," that would reconsider steps to retroactively legalize outposts built on private Palestinian land.

The subject was also discussed in a Likud Knesset faction meeting this week.

Two of the candidates for the taskforce are former Justice Edmond Levy and Former Military Advocate General Brig. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit.

Such a taskforce would find it hard to legalize Migron, since Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has expressed opposition to the task force dealing with cases that have already been ruled on by the courts.

Rivlin visited Migron Thursday, and said that if the cabinet can't find a way to legalize the outpost - the Knesset will.