Migron settlers feel betrayed by Netanyahu
The controversial Migron settlement on the West Bank has been relocated, following settler protests over an eviction order. So what is behind the government's latest move?
All West Bank settlements are illegal under international law but Migron was set up with Israeli government assistance in 1999 and again in 2001.
Yet Israel refused to grant it legal status, as it has done with many other West Bank settlements, meaning it was classed as an “illegal outpost”.
Migron is symbolic in a battle between those who feel that settlers behave as though they are above Israeli law and the settlers themselves, who claim they have been victimised.
An Israeli High Court decision on 29 August overruled a previous government vote that would have allowed the settlers to stay until 2015, stating that Migron was built on privately owned Palestinian land of the village of Bourqa.
Yet Migron residents feel betrayed by a government that until 2009 spent an average 460 million euros each year to support and encourage settlement activity.
However they have declared their support for the High Court’s decision.
Spokespersonn Aviela Dietch spoke of the resident’s current feelings, specifically towards Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
"It’s called two-facedness and wishy-washy-whininess and I don’t mind that that goes on the radio," she told RFI. "He doesn’t say anything that holds water for longer than the next interest to come up. We, Migron, as a community, we’re very pro-government."
The settlers have been moved to a new site two kilometres further down the hill.
The relocation and the construction of the new site cost the Israeli government 30 million Israeli shekels (six million euros).
Despite a verdict delivered on the back of the Bourqa villagers being able to provide proof of their ownership of the land, the Migron families believe that ownership of the area is open to interpretation.
"The fact of the matter is that most of the land round here is entirely ownerless and, no, they haven’t said that it’s private Palestinian land and they haven’t found owners for most of it," says Dietch. "It was a purely political move."
Migron is classed as being under Area C as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords, meaning that it falls under full Israeli military control but is still internationally recognised as being part of the West Bank and thus a future Palestinian state.
Dietch explains that she feels their rent money, paid to the World Zionist Organization, makes their presence legal.
"This land that we’re sitting on here is state land anyway, I don’t know if they bought it or didn’t buy it, they’re just in charge of the housing, I don’t know how that went, I think it’s still state land. I could be wrong, you could clarify that. The project was given to them…I don’t know how that works as far as contracts go."
Settlers, including those in Migron, have been accused of violent attacks on Palestinians and of draining resources such as water, thereby depriving nearby Palestinian towns.
Moshe Elkman of the International Friends of Migron sees things differently, based upon interactions with Palestinians in the local supermarket:
"Why pull down a community which is a role model for coexistence? As Aviela said, I was in the supermarket too. We have the Arab and Jewish shopping side by side. It’s really the leaders. The average Arab, I’m sure, does want peace, it’s the leaders who are creating problems I feel."
Elkman and the Migron residents feel that their vision of an Israeli state run along entirely religious guidelines for Jews and non-Jews alike is one that provides for a path to peace:
"The concept is basically that if the Jew follows the Torah, in Eretz Israel, and the non-Jew follows the seven Noahide laws, there’s no reason why Jew and non-Jew can’t live in harmony.”