The Migron outpost must be evacuated by August 1, 2012, the High Court ruled Sunday, overturning a government compromise that would have allowed settlers to stay in their homes until 2015.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the decision, saying “the government, just like the entire nation, accepts the decision and respects the law.”
“The request before us is unacceptable. It is obviously not a reasonable amount of time,” High Court Justice Miriam Naor said.
The outpost, the largest in the West Bank, was originally slated to be evacuated by March 31 as per an earlier court ruling, which found part of it to be built on private Palestinian land.
Justice Salim Joubran commented, “What would the rule of law look like if the ruling wasn’t followed?”
The ruling could ignite a violent showdown with settlers, who have vowed in the past not to abandon their hilltop stronghold, Migron. Settler leader Shimon Riklin, one of the enclave’s founders, told Israel’s Channel 2 TV that the evacuation of Migron “would not pass quietly.”
A spokesman for the Palestinians, who claim all of the West Bank as part of a future state, was skeptical that the ruling would be carried out.
The State Attorney’s Office asked the High Court on March 14 to postpone the evacuation of the unsanctioned West Bank settlement outpost until late 2015, according to the terms of a compromise deal between the settlers and the government.
By asking for a delay of three and a half years, the government was seen as hoping to avoid a potentially violent showdown with settlers and their supporters. Minister Benny Begin had brokered the deal.
Part of the settlers’ deal with the government involved efforts to maintain a continued Israeli presence on the hilltop where Migron stands. It overlooks the main north-south road through the territory.
Joubran entreated Migron residents to “respect the decision made in good faith to reject the request” as they respectfully requested a court moratorium.
Migron residents called the court’s ruling a “harsh decision” and said the government is “expelling people who yearn for peace.”
“We are confident that the Israeli government and its representative, Minister Begin, know how to find a suitable solution to a situation in which the government has sent its loyal citizens to settle the land and is forced to evict them by High Court order,” a resident said.
Despite the court’s ruling, Michael Sfard, the Palestinian landowners’ attorney, expressed disappointment. “Delayed justice isn’t justice at all. We can not agree to this request which will set a new precedent — a second chance at court rulings.”
MKs Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) and Aryeh Eldad (National Union) said in a statement that the ruling was an example of the court capitulating to the “radical left.” “We urge the prime minister to adopt legislation [stopping the evacuation] and prevent the injustice that will occur as a result of the court rulings,” they said.
MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) said that “the High Court’s giving in to the dictates of Peace Now will take a heavy toll on the unity of Israeli society. [The decision] is a reward for radicals whose objective is to tear the nation asunder; it is spitting in the face of those who have worked toward a reasonable compromise which would prevent difficult scenes of uprooting families from their homes.”
Palestinian government spokesman Ghassan Khatib said the Palestinians would reserve judgment on the ruling.
“We will judge the matter by deeds, rather by than decisions, words or intentions,” he said. “Migron is only one of too many Israeli outpost-settlements that are supposed to be evacuated. The Israeli behavior vis-a-vis this, and other outposts, is an example that illustrates Israel’s intention to consolidate the occupation, rather than end it,” Khatib said.
Israel Radio political analyst Hanan Kristal predicted that evacuating Migron would not topple Netanyahu’s ruling coalition, but would make it less stable and tougher to govern.