Stressing that there is no conflict between his commitment to the rule of law and his support of Israeli settlements, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the settlers of the Migron outpost for the peaceful evacuation of their West Bank residence on Sunday.
All 50 families living in the West Bank’s largest outpost evacuated their homes in advance of a court-imposed military evacuation that was set for Tuesday.
Netanyahu expressed satisfaction that the evacuation of Migron, like that of Givat Ulpana in late June, was “concluded with dialogue and responsibility, rather than with violence.”
The families “left on their own volition with great respect and shared sensitivity and without violent outburst of any sort, verbal or physical,” Judea and Samaria District Police chief Major General Amos Yaakov said.
Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said on Sunday that the evacuation took place in a “relatively respectable way.” By 10 a.m. 19 families left Migron without any disturbances at all, Rosenfeld said. After that point, a number of youths managed to get onto the rooftops and attempted to disrupt the evacuation. Eight youths were arrested on charges of disturbing the peace and interfering with the police in the execution of their duty. None of those arrested were residents of Migron, according to Rosenfeld.
Roadblocks were set up in the very early morning hours to prevent outsiders from entering Migron. Besides the eight above-mentioned youths, Rosenfeld said that some 70 individuals were turned away at the roadblocks, but not arrested.
By 2 p.m. the last of the families left Migron.
Rosenfeld said that Migron was now a closed military zone, and that police anticipate an increase in retaliatory attacks following the evacuation. Patrols have been increased to prevent such attacks whenever possible and to quickly respond if attacks do take place.
Moving trucks arrived at the outpost in early afternoon, to transport residents’ belongs to a school building in the nearby Ofra settlement that will serve as their temporary home.
Police distributed the evacuation orders at daybreak, in compliance with a High Court ruling. Migron, the largest of dozens of West Bank outposts, was acknowledged by the state to have been built on private Palestinian land, though residents of some parts of the outpost contest this.
Last Wednesday, the High Court ruled that the outpost must be partially cleared out by September 4.
Residents are ultimately expected to move to a nearby hill where the government is preparing trailer homes, known locally as caravans, for them to live in until permanent homes can be completed. The Ofra school is to serve as an interim housing solution.
Though the outpost’s residents left Migron peacefully, they released a statement early Sunday morning saying they would continue to contest the evacuation order.
“The residents of Migron have not participated and will not participate in the action to destroy the settlement,” the statement read. “We call on every healthy and honest person to leave their home, to protest, to get angry and to yell with us about this terrible injustice and wretched destruction that this Likud government is wreaking today.”
The head of the local Binyamin Council, Avi Roeh, told The Times of Israel: “It is inexplicable to me that the authorities felt the need to wipe clean the settlement in its entirety.”
He was “sad” and “to an extent angry,” he said, that the government had reneged on what he said was “its word” not to evacuate Migron if the land was legally purchased. (Settlers claim at least some of the Migron land was legally acquired from its Palestinian owners.) “This is a grave blow to the credibility of the government as a government, to the ministers as ministers, and to the people as people.”
Roeh said he was sure that “we will expand the settlement enterprise and continue to purchase and to build.” In the end, he said, there would be “not one but two settlements on this hillside” — Upper Migron and Lower Migron.
Itay Harel, a father of six, who was among the first group of settlers to move to Migron in 1999, called the government decision “a threat to the rebirth of the Jewish nation.”
“We believe that there will be two settlements,” he said, echoing Roeh.
He also said he felt betrayed by cabinet minister Benny Begin, who had given his word that if the settlers were able to purchase land in the outpost, there would be no evacuation.
Migron, which had some 300 residents, has taken on potent significance for both sides to the dispute.
‘We call on every person to protest, to get angry and to yell with us about this terrible injustice and wretched destruction’
Michael Sfard, a lawyer representing the original Palestinian appellants claiming to own the land, told a three-judge panel Tuesday that the outpost was “a symbol of defiance against the rule of law.”
To settlers, the hilltop that looms over Route 60 north from the capital has historical relevance — King Saul is depicted in the Bible as having camped there with his army while defending Jerusalem — and is a parcel of land that proved itself crucial security-wise during the Second Intifada.
On Friday morning, security forces evacuated and destroyed the Ramat Migron outpost, a smaller cluster of temporary homes built nearby.
Three minors were arrested, but security forces reported that the evacuation proceeded smoothly, with no incidents of violence.
The last major outpost evacuation, the Givat Ulpana hill in Beit El, took place peacefully in June, though a number of families requested that security forces carry them out so as not be seen as leaving by choice.