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Nahum Barnea  

 

Don't evacuate Migron

Op-ed: State should have banned construction in smaller West Bank settlements long ago

Published: 08.28.12, 00:49 / Israel Opinion

Israeli security forces are expected to evacuate the West Bank outpost of Migron by Tuesday morning after the State determined that it was built on private Palestinian land. Now, 17 of Migron's 50 families claim there is no reason to relocate them because they have acquired partial ownership of part of the land. They want the High Court of Justice to rule on the matter.

 

I visited Migron last week, and yesterday I toured settlements located on the mountain ridge, north of Jerusalem. My conclusion is that Migron should not be evacuated.

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The original sin was committed by the High Court. In the second decade after the Six Day War, when the settlement enterprise transformed from a marginal whim to the government's primary policy in the territories, the High Court was asked to present its stance by ruling on a series of petitions. Over the years the court's judges ignored the international law, which forbids the establishment of a settlement on conquered land, and instead focused on the issue of ownership: Jews are permitted to settle anywhere in the West Bank as long as the land is not Palestinian-owned.

 

This was convenient for everyone: The world viewed our court as a champion of human rights which addresses the grievances of conquered Palestinians; the court gave the Left an occasional victory against the settlers; and, most importantly, the court allowed Israel's governments to continue building in the West Bank like there's no tomorrow.

 

Peres and Galili launched the project; Begin advanced it and Sharon completed it. The objective was to prevent the establishment of an Arab country between Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. Today, 300,000 Jewish settlers - who have a lot of political clout - live in the West Bank. Offering them the same compensation as the settlers who were evacuated from Gush Katif would cost the country hundreds of billions of shekels. So it is safe to say that the objective has been achieved.

 

There is nothing left to do but fight over scraps – in Ulpana, Migron and Amona. I propose that the Cabinet ministers and Supreme Court justices spend a day in the land of settlements. They will discover that while construction in the settlement blocs (those President Bush recognized as being linked to Israel) is relatively moderate and is subject to the authorization of the defense minister, construction in the communal settlements (those that even Netanyahu believes should eventually be evacuated) is flourishing.

 

They should travel to Ma'ale Michmash or Mitzpe Dani, to Givat Haroeh or Yitzhar, and to the dozens of other settlements and outposts sitting on the mountain ridge. These communities do not need defense minister's authorization to expand.

 

These small communities covering the entire mountaintop cost the state a fortune in infrastructure and security. An honorable rightist government should have determined that construction would continue only in the larger settlements. Not in the small ones. There is no need. Oslo is dead. The Bar-Ilan speech is dead. The entire world realizes this. Now we can begin to invest in what is just.

 

The reader certainly remembers that in exchange for the evacuation of a number of homes in Beit El's Ulpana neighborhood the government pledged to build dozens of others on the other side of the settlement – at the State's expense of course. This was the case with Migron as well: The construction of an alternative settlement cost tens of millions of shekels. Now, instead of one Migron, there are two.

 

It is up to the High Court to decide whether the 17 Migron families will be a part of the general turning of a blind eye, or see to it that law prevails.

 

 

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