April 4, 2012 1 Comment
Migron, a few miles East of Ramallah in the “West Bank” is officially an illegal outpost built on land owned by Palestinian Arabs from two nearby villages. Several Israeli administrations have promised to demolish it, but Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has tried to offer the settlers a compromise that would resettle them in a legal and permanent location nearby over a three year period. Israel’s Supreme Court, however, has decreed that Migron must be destroyed forthwith – in fact it should have happened by March 31st! The settlers claim that the land is abandoned, that no-one has offered sufficient proof of an existing owner and that therefore they are entitled to lay claim to this isolated hilltop themselves. So who is right?
There are and have been many illegal hilltop outposts since 1967. Accurate statistics are hard to come by and many are several years old, but there are probably more than 100 in existence today. Of all these, Migron is the “flagship” (“flag-caravan” might be a better title) of the settler movement, having grown from a mobile phone mast and five caravans to a present population of forty five families living mainly in temporary trailer-type housing and with only five permanent buildings on the site. In common with other emerging settlements, a high priority has been put on community facilities and Migron has a kindergarten, synagogue and other communal facilities.
A series of unfulfilled commitments by Israeli governments to carry out demolition threats, culminating in a decision by the Supreme Court in August 2011 that Migron must be demolished by the end of March (it hasn’t been!) have made the Migron issue into a “perfect storm” that highlights the tensions in Israeli society over settlements generally and the hilltop outposts in particular. It is not widely recognised that the settlement programme was initiated in order to give Israel post-1967 a strategic depth that the 1948 armistice lines had denied her. Since then, the whole concept of settling on unoccupied land in Judea and Samaria / the West Bank (according to your stance on the issue) has given rise to major societal tensions that just about everyone in the nation has an opinion on.
These issues and tensions crystalise down into four areas and understanding these will give a better understanding of why a total land area of less than 1% of the disputed West bank manages to dominate both national and international attitudes. Read more of this post