3 Aug. '11: High Court orders state to dismantle Migron outpost

3 Aug 2011

On 2 August, Israel's High Court of Justice ordered the state to dismantle the Migron outpost within eight months, by the end of March 2012. The last time the court gave an order of this kind was in 1979, when it ordered the state to dismantle the Elon Moreh settlement, which had been built on privately owned Palestinian land. At a later stage, the settlement was reestablished on nearby land that had been declared state land.

The Migron outpost lies on a hill northeast of Jerusalem overlooking Route 60, a main roadway in the West Bank, between the Ofra and Geva Binyamin settlements. It is the largest of the 100 or so outposts established in the West Bank, all of which were built without government approval, without allocation of land, and without an outline plan permitting building. It was founded in 1999 on land privately-owned by Palestinians from the nearby villages of Burqah and Deir Dubwan, which Israel declared an archeological dig. The outpost was expanded in January 2002 and now houses some 250 persons.

 The Migron outpost. Photo: Peace Now, 11 April '11.

The Migron outpost. Photo: Peace Now, 11 April '11.

The law-enforcement authorities – the Civil Administration, the Ministry of Defense, and the Ministry of Justice – have never taken any measures to prevent the theft of land and construction in the outpost. Yet no state official has denied the fact that the outpost’s built-up area, as well as surrounding land that has been seized by the settlers and enclosed by patrol paths, belong to Palestinian individuals.

In fact, the authorities assisted in building the outpost. According to the Sasson report on illegal outposts, the Ministry of Construction and Housing invested 4.3 million shekels in laying infrastructure for the outpost through the Mate Binyamin Regional Council, despite the lack of requisite approvals.

In June 2006, Peace Now petitioned the High Court of Justice to dismantle the outpost. In August 2008, during the course of the hearings on the petition, the state proposed building a neighborhood in the Geva Binyamin settlement for the Migron residents, in exchange for evacuating the outpost. The residents rejected the proposal. High Court panels that heard the petition refrained from ordering that the outpost be dismantled, and repeatedly acceded to the state’s requests for postponement. The state promised that the authorities would “rapidly and effectively enforce the planning and building laws,” admitting that “the existence of the outpost is unacceptable.” Yet the residents continued to build unlawfully (including construction of public buildings and three permanent structures), while the law-enforcement authorities did nothing substantial to prevent it.

One explanation given by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch for the ruling was that the outpost violated the property rights of the Palestinian landowners. In the Elon Moreh case, too, the High Court ordered the settlement to be dismantled because it had been built on private Palestinian land. Following the judgment in the Elon Moreh case, the government declared it would no longer issue military orders requisitioning private Palestinian land for settlements. However, the state invented new methods to take control of land in the West Bank to establish settlements, and by doing so, continued to severely infringe Palestinians’ right of property.

For example, Israel used land in the Jordan Valley belonging to absentee Palestinians to build the first settlements in the area; it seized private Palestinian land to build 42 settlements on the false pretext that the settlements served “military needs”; it distorted the provisions of the Ottoman Land Law to enable declaration of hundreds of thousands of dunams as state land, most of which were being cultivated by Palestinians; and enabled the criminal takeover, by at least 27 settlements, of private Palestinian land.

Given the illegality of all the settlements under international law, and the grave infringement of Palestinians’ human rights they cause, B'Tselem again calls on the Israeli government to dismantle all the settlements.