Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Kushner - From Israel: MIGRON in the spotlight

Arlene Kushner..
24 January '12..

My readers have heard from me about Mitzpe Avichai, and now it is time to turn our attention to Migron -- which presents some very serious issues. You will learn things here that it is unlikely you've heard from your mainstream media sources.

Migron is a Jewish community on a hilltop in the Binyamin Regional Council in Samaria, north of Jerusalem. With 49 families, it is the largest of the communities that are frequently referred to as "unauthorized settlements."

In order to properly understand the situation of this community, we will need a bit of background, which has been provided by a resident of Migron who serves as a spokesperson:

In 1960, the king of Jordan divided the area where Migron is now located into some 60 plots and gave them to individual families. It was, however, with the proviso that they begin farming within three years, or the land would revert back to the kingdom. No farming was done, not for three years and not for seven years -- which is when the land came under Israeli control.

Land that reverted back to the kingdom should have become Israeli state land. This should have been the end of the story. (As I understand it, to ensure there would be no problem, the Jews who came to establish Migron purchased the land in any event.)


In 1999, establishment of Migron began with the set-up of the first caravans. The very first residents were actually part of an archeological expedition in the area, which, it should be noted, provided evidence -- including a winepress -- of an exclusively Jewish presence.

The community, as it grew, worked with a host of government ministries that provided support for phone lines, electricity, water, staff of day care and nursery schools and more.

In point of fact, the government saw a need for a Jewish community in this location for security reasons. A by-pass road had been established at the foot of the hill on which Migron is situated so that Jews would be able to travel -- via route 60 -- while avoiding entry into Ramallah. It was understood that without Jews on this hill, Jews traveling the road below would be at risk. (It is certain that Arabs would be up there, if Jews were not.)

Additionally, from the height of that location Jews are able to overlook the north of Jerusalem and communities situated between Migron and the Dead Sea.

But, for all the sanction the government gave to the establishment of this community, what was missing was the final authorization from the Ministry of Defense. From mid-1999, and for two years subsequent, Ehud Barak was Defense Minister, and so it is possible that he was the one who would have had to sign off on this. (What a surprise!) Or, as these approvals take time, perhaps the very leftist Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who followed him.

This is a common story. It feels rather schizoid -- with one hand not knowing, or approving, what the other is doing. This is a function of the nature of the administration of Jewish communities beyond the Green Line. Were civil law to be applied, the Ministry of Defense would not be involved.


In 2006, Peace Now got into the act, going to the High Court and claiming that the land Migron was situated on belonged to Arabs. Ostensibly, Peace Now spoke on behalf of a group of Arab plaintiffs, who were from local villages. Residents of Migron observed that these plaintiffs, who seemed to have been drafted by Peace Now, were "without a clue."

Migron residents, I have been told, have never had a problem with their Arab neighbors, and it seemed to them more than a bit strange that, if the Arab plaintiffs knew that Jews were occupying their land, they would have waited the seven years since Migron had been established before registering a claim.

My Migron source tells me that various documents were provided to the Court that were never taken into consideration. With various legal delays, it was not determined until early last year that Migron was to be demolished by the end of March 2012.


In the meantime, the Arabs who were claiming that Migron was on their land brought a suit into the Jerusalem Magistrates Court, demanding that the State provide them with compensation for the years in which they were deprived of their land. (Never mind that in the years before Migron was established they had not in any way utilized this land.) But this court demanded of the plaintiffs that they provide proof of ownership of the land and gave them a deadline, which recently expired.

Just last week, the Jerusalem Magistrates Court ruled that the plaintiffs, as they could not provide proof of land ownership, had to pay compensation to the residents of Migron for their trouble and were forbidden from bringing further lawsuits on this issue.


Now, I asked myself, if the Arab plaintiffs that Peace Now was representing could not prove their right to the land of Migron, why is it that the High Court order to demolish Migron stands.

Today I posed that question to a representative of the Legal Forum of the Land of Israel. The answer is stunning:

This issue, I was told, is political, not legal. For the Court did not rule that the government had to demolish Migron. The government volunteered to do it. Let me repeat this: The government volunteered to do it.

What happened is that the Court turned to the government and said, these claims are being made against Migron, how are you going to handle this? And the answer from the government was, we'll demolish Migron by March 31, 2012.

The government said this? Even though government ministries had helped to establish Migron and there was clear recognition on the part of the government that putting a Jewish community on that hill was a wise thing to do from a security perspective?

So I have been advised.


If you are totally confused, it is understandable. But I believe I can explain what's happening here.

It is exceedingly unlikely that the government would have taken action against Migron if not for the petition of Peace Now, which acts as the "impetus" in many of these cases.

But once a petition such as this one is filed, the representatives of the government show themselves to be without the courage of their convictions. Or perhaps better put, they have no convictions. That is, they are not guided by a determination to stand by Jewish rights and to fight for those rights. They are guided by pragmatics and not by principle or ideology. They cave, out of fear of being criticized by the international community for taking Arab land, etc. etc.

And fairness to the residents of Migron, who were assisted by government agencies in establishing their community? What does this have to do with anything?


Right now this is a very hot political potato, with many incensed at the notion of taking down Migron. Speaker of the Knesset Ruby Rivlin (Likud) has spoken out on this with vehemence. I'm told Shas is with the residents of Migron. And Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman says this is a red line for his party, Yisrael Beitenu, which will leave the coalition if Migron comes down.

Prime Minister Netanyahu, then, is between a rock and a hard place politically, and realizes that if a satisfactory solution is not found for Migron his government is at risk.

Thus, there is an attempt to strike an agreement with Migron residents that would provide an out for the government, which would not have to demolish the community.


But even this is a complicated and infuriating matter.

Not long ago, legislation was introduced that to prevent communities in Judea and Samaria from being destroyed unless the Arab(s) claiming ownership produced documentation of that ownership -- and if documentation were produced beyond a certain number of years, there would be monetary compensation instead.

This legislation would protect Migron. But it is frozen in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation at the request of Netanyahu. He, in turn, has done this at the behest of Minister Benny Begin (Likud). If I live to be 100 I will not understand what is driving Begin at this point. He is heading negotiations that the government is holding with the representatives of Migron, regarding a so-called compromise. He doesn't want to see them protected by this legislation; he wants them to feel that they have no choice but to accept what he offers. In light of what I had previously understood to be his political orientation, the fact that he wants this confuses me totally.

The compromise, which is being urged on Migron by Netanyahu, would move the community to the bottom of the hill on to land that is universally acknowledged to be state land. It is better, the residents are being told, than having their community simply demolished.


But the community is not buying this. You may have read in recent news reports that a deal was reached. I was told today, however, that there is no deal.

The position of the Migron residents is that they have a right to be where they are, that they are not located on Arab land. If they move to the bottom of the hill, they say, it denies their purpose in having been put (by the government) on the hill for security reasons in the first place, and it ignores the involvement of multiple government ministries in helping them to be established there.


The question, then, is whether, when push comes to shove, the prime minister will actually allow the destruction of Migron, as this may bring down his government.

Apparently there are at least a couple of avenues he can take to remedy the situation. He can permit the release of the legislation from committee. Or, I was told by the legal forum, the government can return to the High Court and say that in the light of new evidence it withdraws its commitment to take down the community.


I would like to see as many of my readers as possible give a boost to the residents of Migron, as they wait to see if the prime minister blinks.

Please! write to Netanyahu.

Tell him that you are convinced that the residents of Migron are in their current location by right, that they were helped by the government as they were established, that they serve a legitimate security purpose, and that there is absolutely no reason to believe that they are on Arab land.

Tell him that you are watching his government closely in this regard, and that you expect him to do what is honorable and principled, and not what is convenient politically.

Say you expect him to return to the High Court and, based on new information, reverse the commitment to take down Migron. And that you further expect the legislation that is currently frozen in committee regarding the demolishment of communities to be released for vote in the Knesset.

Fax: 02-670-5369 (From the US: 011-972-2-670-5369)

E-mail: Memshala@pmo.gov.il and also pm_eng2@it.pmo.gov.il (underscore after pm) use both addresses


Then, please, write to the following Likud ministers and urge them to push the prime minister to take action to remedy the situation in Migron properly. Ask them to remind Netanyahu that the government may fall if he fails to do this.

Keep it simple for yourself. Compose a short message that says "Dear Minister," followed by text, click on each minister's e-mail address in turn, paste in the message and send. Do NOT send a group message; each should be separate.

Minister of Public Diplomacy Yuli Edelstein

Minister of Improvement of Government Services

Minister of Environmental Protection Gilad Erdan

Minister of Welfare Moshe Kahlon

Minister of Transportation Yisrael Katz

Minister of Culture Limor Livnat

Minister Yosi Peled

Minister of Education Gideon Saar

Minister of the Development of the Negev Silvan Shalom

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz

Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Yaalon


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

See my website at www.arlenefromisrael.info Contact Arlene at akushner@netvision.net.il

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