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Supreme Court Nixes Deal Over Illegal Outpost

Migron to disappear by August 1, barring further gov’t action, noncompliance

Marc Tracy
March 26, 2012
Migron today.6(Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)
Migron today.6(Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

Yet again, defenders of Israel’s democratic character may point to its judicial system, and especially the Supreme Court, as a bulwark for the rule of law. Last summer, the Supreme Court, hearing a petition brought with the help of the left-wing group Peace Now, ruled that Migron—a settlement, or “outpost,” near Ramallah in the West Bank that is considered illegal even under Israeli law and was built in 1999 without government permission on land that seems to be owned by certain Palestinians—had to be taken down and its residents relocated by the end of this month. The Israeli government—which is pro-settlements, though arguably has legitimate interests in minimizing discord—recently offered an apparently extralegal compromise to Migron’s 50 families: It would build legal (or “legal,” if you’re much of the international community) housing for them nearby and they would be forced to move in 2015. Deal, the settlers said.

No deal, the Supreme Court replied yesterday. Granting a four-month extension due to the hubbub, the court ordered the settlers moved by Aug. 1. “This is a necessary component of the rule of law to which all are subject as part of Israel’s values as a Jewish and democratic state,” its opinion read.

During last week’s arguments, one of the three judges who joined the unanimous ruling was more blunt: “You say the outpost will move in three years, but I know this type of behavior. Three years will inevitably turn into eight.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu has said the government will abide by the ruling. There does appear, however, a chance for the Knesset to step in. As it is, however, the government currently plans to move the settlers to mobile homes in a nearby settlement within 60 days and go from there.

I think sympathy for the settlers is perfectly acceptable, even if they are, as seems likely, true believers. Having one’s life uprooted is no easy thing. The mistake was the government’s for allowing the settlement to be built; rebuilt in 2001; and not torn down, as it was supposed to be, in 2003 (plans for Gaza disengagement put the kibosh on that), or during subsequent years. But sympathy can’t get in the way of justice, and justice demands that Migron disappear. We should be grateful the Israeli Supreme Court sees it that way and hope that everybody else complies.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.

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