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Settlements in Focus - Vol. 2, Issue 12: "Why are Outposts Front Page News, Yet Again?"

"...settlers, taking advantage of Israelis' (and the media's) focus on the war with Hezbollah, used the summer of 2006 to expand outposts."

Migron Outpost

Settlements in Focus

Why are Outposts Front Page News, Yet Again? (Vol. 2, Issue 12)
A publication of Americans for Peace Now

Outposts are once again making headlines. What is the story?

Outposts are in the news again because the Peace Now carefully documented this expansion and recently released the data to the public, re-igniting the debate in Israel over outposts in general, and over the Olmert Government's policy regarding outposts in particular.

What is the extent of this expansion?

Between April and August 2006, no new outposts were established and one small, uninhabited outpost (Yitav East) was removed. During this same period, construction was observed in 31 outposts, ranging from the addition of mobile homes and expansion of infrastructure, to construction of permanent structures. The largest amount of this construction took place in the central and northern West Bank (areas under the control of the Binyamin Regional Council and the Samaria Regional Council, respectively). The full Peace Now report can be seen at:

Does Peace Now currently have any court cases pending against outposts?

Peace Now has one outpost-related petition pending in the Israeli High Court of Justice. It focuses on the illegal outposts of Hayovel and Haresha. The petition charge the Minister of Defense and the Head of the Israeli Defense Forces' Central Command with failing to carry out demolition orders issued by the Civil Administration for the illegal construction in these outposts. On November 23, 2005, the Court issued a "show cause" order (formally known as an "order nisi") ordering the Respondents to explain within 90 days (i.e., by mid-February 2006) why the steps necessary to demolish the illegal structures have not been taken. No such explanation was provided by the deadline. Instead, on May 8, 2006, the Civil Administration notified the courts that it would be commissioning a new survey of all illegal construction taking place in the settlements, and that only after the survey is completed would the Civil Administration begin working on demolition plans. The Civil Administration indicated that the survey would take around 4 months to complete (i.e., by early September), but as of this writing no results or demolition plans have been presented to the Courts. For details of these cases, see: and,7340,L-3248274,00.html

In addition, as noted in Settlements in Focus (Vol. 2, Issue 9), earlier this year the Government of Israel indicated it would evacuate 24 outposts, including outposts that are home to the most serious settler "troublemakers." Since then, none of these outposts have been evacuated and some of them are on the list of those in which there has been recent expansion. At the same time, in April 2006 Peace Now petitioned the High Court of Justice over six outposts. That petition was rejected based on the argument that the Government was already planning to deal with the outposts. At the time, however, the Court stated, "...of course, in light of developments that occur or do not occur, a new petition can be filed according to the circumstances." Given that during the intervening period the Government has failed to take any action against these outposts, Peace Now is considering petitioning the High Court of Justice again in the near future.

Finally, Peace Now has recently launched a challenge against the illegal outpost of Migron. The challenge is based on the fact that this outpost is built entirely on land that is privately-owned by Palestinians. In an unprecedented challenge to the settlers, a group of the legal landowners have organized and are working with Israeli lawyer Michael Sfard to demand that their rights be respected (Peace Now is a party to the petition). On September 26, 2006, Sfard sent a letter to Minister of Defense Amir Peretz and Central Command Head Major General Yair Naveh petitioning, on behalf of these landowners (one of whom is also an American citizen) and Peace Now for the immediate evacuation of the illegal outpost and the return of the land to its legal owners. The letter indicated that if the State did not respond positively within two weeks legal action to compel the State to act would be considered.

What are the basic facts regarding Migron?

History: The outpost began its life in 1999 - in a relatively innocuous manner - as the site of a communications antenna. This antenna was erected by one of Israel's major cellular phone companies after Israeli settlers complained that they could not get cellular phone reception in this hilly area of the West Bank. While this may have been true, it is also the case that even before the antenna was installed settlers had initiated archeological excavations on the site, with the avowed goal of trying to identify the biblical site of Migron (mentioned twice in the Bible, in the books of Samuel and Isaiah). Their efforts turned up remains dating only as far back as the Byzantium period (4th-7th centuries, AD). In 2002, settlers formally transformed the site into an inhabited settlement, and since that time it has grown continuously.

Location: Migron is located about 3.5 miles east of the Palestinian city of Ramallah. The location of Migron is especially important since it overlooks Route 60, which is the main road used by settlers driving between Jerusalem and the settlements located to its north and northeast. It is also important because it is an area where, prior to the establishment of the outpost, there was no settlement activity. Migron thus achieves two key goals of the settlers: to establish domination over a main transportation route, and to create Israeli "contiguity" between isolated settlements in the heart of the West Bank.

Size/Composition: Like most other outposts erected in the past decade in the West Bank, Migron consists mainly of trailers and containers bought by the Ministry of Housing (often through Amana, originally the settlement arm of the Gush Emunim movement - today it is the main enterprise which builds in the settlements and the outposts), providing temporary housing to the settlers until they can construct permanent structures. Migron is currently composed of around 60 trailers and containers and two permanent structures, housing more than 40 families, a kindergarten, synagogue and other community resources.

For the settlers' perspective on the establishment and importance of Migron, see:

Why is Peace Now focusing on this outpost?

Migron is the flagship of the entire outpost enterprise. Its size, the vast amount of Israeli tax payer money that has been illegally diverted to support it (estimated in the Sasson report at over $1 million, excluding security costs - see below for more details), and the manifest illegality of the outpost's establishment and continued existence, make Migron an important symbol and target in the public battle against the outposts phenomena and the government's continued abdication of its responsibilities in this realm.

The fate of Migron was the center of a great deal of speculation in the early days of the Road Map, when it appeared that the Sharon Government might be serious about evacuating some outposts in response to pressure from the Bush Administration. Such evacuations never materialized, and since that time Migron has continued to grow.

Migron is an especially good example of the illegal nature of outposts because it is illegal in virtually every way that an outpost can be illegal. First and foremost, Migron is located completely on privately-owned land - a fact that is acknowledged by Israeli authorities. The issue of outposts and private property was explicitly addressed in the Sasson Report - a report looking exhaustively at the issue of Israeli settlement outposts in the West Bank prepared at the request of Prime Minister Sharon by Israeli attorney Talia Sasson. Referring to this issue Sasson wrote: "There is no way to validate the establishment of an outpost on private Palestinian property, not even post factum. Such outposts must be evacuated, the sooner the better." Explaining this position, she stated:

"It is absolutely prohibited to establish outposts on private Palestinian property. Such an action may in certain circumstances become a felony...first and foremost this is a serious prejudice of the right of possession. This right is a basic right in Israel - included in Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom, and was defined by the Israeli Supreme Court as a constitutional right. Israel's High Court of Justice ruled that the Commander of the area must protect the fundamental rights of the Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. This means he must also protect their right of possession. It is the Commander's duty to prevent the intolerable prejudice of Palestinians' right of possession, which an establishment of outposts on their property causes."

In addition to the flagrant illegality of the establishment of Migron on privately-owned land, Migron was established without official government permission or any official government decision, and its establishment and growth have taken place without any of the required planning, approvals or permits. Moreover, Migron is not within the judicial area of any other official settlement, so it cannot be argued that it is a "neighborhood" of an existing settlement.

Did the Sasson Report address Migron?

The appendix to the Sasson Report includes a detailed description of Migron:

Government or Minister of Defense approval for its establishment: None.

Nature of land rights: Private Palestinian land (agricultural lands of 'Ein Yabrud and Burka).

Body which allocated the land: None.

Planning status: None.

Jurisdiction: None. Beyond the jurisdiction of the Mate Binyamin Regional Council; beyond the boundaries of the settlement.

No. of inhabitants: 42 families; approx. 150 persons.

Type of construction: 51 caravans; a caravan used for pre-school; 8 containers; land prepared for permanent structures and additional caravans; a synagogue in a permanent structure; a prefabricated structure; communications poles; illumination; a paved access road and another access road, a security room (shelter); a water tower, a road; trees planted .

Body financing the establishment: The Ministry of Housing and Construction financed the establishment of infrastructures in the amount of 3,525,000 NIS [$828,600], and 800,000 NIS [$188,000] for the construction of public structures.

Connection to electricity grid: Connection to the electricity grid was approved by the communications and the electricity company for connecting to a cellular antenna. Afterwards, an additional connection to the electricity grid was carried out, making it possible to connect electricity to the houses. According to the electricity company, they were misled by the Civil Administration.

Connection to water system: The site was temporarily connected to the water system to enable work on the site. According to Mekorot [the water company], the Binyamin Regional Council ordered the connection.

How does this case relate to the case against the outpost of Amona?

The Amona case, which Peace Now took to the Israeli High Court of Justice in the summer of 2005, was an important precedent. In deciding that case, the Israeli High Court made an unequivocal ruling that outposts and settlements cannot under any circumstances be built on privately-owned Palestinian land. The High Court also set a precedent in requiring the demolition of structures that violate this principle (9 structures located in one section of Amona were demolished).

Unfortunately, while the Government of Israel now has a clear decision and legal precedent establishing the illegality of outposts built on privately-owned Palestinian land, it has shown no inclination to apply this legal precedent elsewhere in the West Bank, even in the most egregious cases (including in Amona, where the entire outpost, like Migron, is built on private land).

The anticipated legal appeal against the Migron will thus go a step further than the case against Amona, and demand the dismantlement of the entire outpost.

Given the Amona case, how is the Migron case expected to play out?

It is very hard to see how the government can avoid taking action against Migron. While the issue of outposts is a politically complicated one for any Israeli government, legally speaking the case is very simple. As made clear in the Sasson Report, there is no legal mechanism under which Israel can grant legality to Migron post facto. Private property has been stolen by the settlers with the assistance of state authorities. The owners of the private property have identified themselves and can prove their claim. A formal demand has been made on their behalf by a qualified Israeli lawyer to the Government of Israel to execute its legal responsibility to return the property to its rightful owners. Given all of this, and given the experience with Amona - where, following a lengthy legal process, rule of law was victorious - it seems clear that the Government of Israel will have no choice but to remove Migron and many other outposts.

How many other outposts could be subject to similar legal cases with respect to private property?

There are few dozen outposts located fully or partially on privately-owned Palestinian land. A full chart can be viewed at:

Is there a similar situation that exist in settlements?

Yes. While illegal construction and expansion of outposts has been making headlines for some time now, most illegal construction in the West Bank actually takes place in established settlements, rather than in outposts. This includes construction or illegal seizure of private Palestinian lands. Peace Now's Settlement Watch Team is presently completing a report that will reveal the details and scale of this illegal practice in settlements.

Produced by Lara Friedman, Americans for Peace Now,
and Dror Etkes, Peace Now