And Now for the Facts

Lior Amichai | Haaretz

Yisrael Harel’s article (“It’s not the state that surrendered,” Haaretz, March 1), is full of so many errors and deceptions that it is obvious his real intention is to improve the image of the Migron settlers, including his son, Itai Harel.

First the facts. The outpost of Migron was built illegally, without a government decision or building plans, on private Palestinian land outside of the borders of Israel. The Civil Administration – a military body operating within the IDF – issued demolition orders against all of the buildings in the outpost shortly after they were built.

In 2006, Peace Now, with some of the land owners, petitioned the High Court of Justice in a demand to realize the orders and evacuate the outpost. That simple trial dragged on for five years because of the state’s attempts to reach an agreement with the Migron settlers to relocate them to another settlement. The court agreed time after time to the state’s deferral requests, to avoid a forced evacuation. Finally, when the settlers refused to move to a new neighborhood planned for them within a nearby settlement, the court understood the people of Migron could not be appeased and ruled that the state must evacuate the outpost by the end of March 2012.

The HCJ ruling does not satisfy Harel. He argues vehemently that an attorney on behalf of the state argued in a trial initiated by some of the land owners that “the plaintiffs do not have the right to the land.” He does not mention, God forbid, that the judge in the same trial ruled to the contrary (in her words: “I was not convinced”).

Harel complains about the cabinet ministers, who “did not have the courage to support a law legalizing the settlement.” But how could they? Is the Knesset of Israel permitted to pass laws that apply to the occupied territories? After all, since 1967 they have been administered by the army and not by the laws of Israel. Do the members of the Knesset not know that they do not have the authority to make laws for the West Bank since Israel never annexed the territories? Would it be possible for them to pass a law that forces land owners, who do not have the right to vote for the Knesset, to give up their land?

And to what end? Harel speaks of the heroism of the settlers, who chose to live next to a road of great military importance. No thank you, I do not want their heroism if it comes with national religious messianism. If it is a security issue, please let the IDF decide how to operate and from which hilltop.

Despite what Harel says, Migron is not a settlement in the heart of Israel. It is outside of Israel’s borders and its establishment has political and military implications. If the Migron settlers were indeed as responsible as the article argues, they would respect the HCJ ruling and evacuate voluntarily and not threaten to refuse to evacuate and lead to violence.

The emerging agreement between Minister Benny Begin and the Migron settlers is indeed surrender. It is a mockery of Israel’s democratic laws. There is no legal procedure to change a High Court ruling after it is made (and after the deadline to apply for a further hearing). If the attempt to change the HCJ ruling and stay on the land succeeds, it will be another deterioration of the legal system because of the occupation. Harel is wrong when he says the agreement would salvage the HCJ. If it is accepted, it will further degrade its status and authority.

The author is a member of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch Team