MIGRON OUTPOST, West Bank (AP) — Religious zealots living in a rogue settlement on a wind-swept West Bank hilltop are defying the Israeli government’s plans to evict them, setting up a showdown that has threatened to rip the ruling coalition apart.
The outcome could hurt Israel internationally should it choose to again flout its 2003 promise to Washington to knock down Migron and other unauthorized settler enclaves built on land Palestinians claim for a future state.
The government says the settlers of Migron — 100 adults and 200 children living in a jumble of cramped trailers — seized the territory unlawfully in 2001 from private Palestinian landowners. Israel’s Supreme Court has ordered the government to remove them by March 31.
But with hardline lawmakers threatening to bolt Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition if Migron is dismantled, and a history of clashes with settlers in mind, officials are scrambling to find a solution that will satisfy both settlers and a court impatient with government delays.
Leaders insist they will carry out the court order if no compromise is reached.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who has tried for years to negotiate a solution with Migron leaders, said this week “it’s out of the question” that settlers will remain on private Palestinian land. “It undercuts the rule of law and the supremacy of law and our position vis-a-vis the world, on the one hand, and our citizens on the other hand,” he told Israel Radio.
The settlers believe it is their religious duty to settle this patch of the biblical Land of Israel and say they won’t abandon their stronghold 10 miles (15 kilometers) north of Jerusalem, overlooking the main north-south road in the West Bank.
The international community opposes all Jewish settlement activity in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war. But Israel distinguishes between the 121 settlements established in accordance with official procedures and the more than 100 unauthorized “outposts” that skirted the process and are considered illegal.
Although the government did not officially approve the building of such enclaves, home to several thousand Israelis, the settlers have managed to work the system to their advantage to secure military protection or hook up their communities to utility grids.
Israeli governments have occasionally dismantled isolated structures in the enclaves, in some cases resulting in riotous confrontations with settlers and masses of supporters who flocked to the scene.
These standoffs chilled the government’s ardor to evacuate the outposts it promised to dismantle, and years of negotiating with the settlers began. The negotiations have emboldened Migron’s residents, who reject the state’s claim that Palestinians own the land.
Migron is the largest outpost and has come to symbolize settler defiance.
A top security official told The Associated Press that the authorities are ready to take down Migron when the order comes. However, the official balked at the notion of blocking roads to the site to prevent mass disturbances, suggesting that would be considered too radical a step. The official spoke on condition of anonymity under military regulations.
For months, Migron’s residents have been lobbying politicians to keep the outpost in place and searching for legal maneuvers to block an evacuation. They are also holding meetings to acquaint ordinary Israelis with their cause. Their Facebook page features a clock counting down to the evacuation deadline.View Entire Story
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