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Shilo's Wild Wolves

Criminal investigation on illegal construction of houses in Shilo



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Yesterday, February 29, 2012, Israel’s State Attorney* informed the Supreme Court that in a meeting held the same day by the Attorney General of Israel**, it was decided to initiate a criminal investigation on the illegal construction of houses within Shilo, a settlement in the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council (the name means "Benjamin’s Headquarters;" it is named after the Biblical tribe that occupied the area). Israel Police Head of Investigations Department also participated in the meeting, and supported the decision. This takes place just before the deadline of a Supreme Court ruling ordering the state to dismantle the nearby outpost of Migron by April 2012. The battle over the West Bank heats up.

Mateh Binyamin Logo

Mateh Binyamin Logo


Aren’t all West Bank settlements illegal?

At first, the paragraph above may seem odd. After all, aren't all Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal? The United Nations Security Council, the International Court of Justice, and most countries (Israel being the obvious exception) agree that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to the West Bank. Thus, the occupier cannot settle there, and all its settlements and outposts are equally illegal.

On the other hand, Israel claims that the Fourth Geneva Convention does not apply to the West Bank. Basing itself on this impossible interpretation, it pursues the creation of Jewish settlements. Thus, Israel considers legal the settlements founded with the permission and planning of the state. However, outposts—like Migron—built without such permission, are considered illegal. Yesterday’s decision was complex. It condemned the new houses because they had not been approved by the relevant authorities, but it announced to the court that the state would pursue the construction of three neighborhoods.


Shilo and Mateh Binyamin


Mateh Binyamin Regional Council (Mo'atza Ezorit Mateh Binyamin) is located north of Jerusalem; it administers 42 settlements, including several high-profile ones. Among them are Migron, Psagot—just on Jerusalem’s northern outskirts—and Shilo. Road 443, the new road annexing East Jerusalem to Israel, passes partly through the council area; the related Highway 60, leading from Jerusalem northwards, also crosses its area. Shilo is along the latter.

Shilo is 45km along Highway 60 north of Jerusalem, and has a population of over 2300, which is a lot in comparison to most West Bank settlements. The settlement was founded in 1978, and was officially recognized by the Israeli government the following year. The Israeli government claims that it is built entirely on state land, owned by the state in 1967, or reverted to it because the owners had fled. However, as in the case of Migron, Palestinians claim that more than a quarter of it is built on land privately owned by Palestinians. The Israeli claim is not credible. Associated Press discovered in 2008 that Abd Allatif Hassan Sumarin, who supposedly in 2004 sold a plot of land in Migron to Al Wattan Ltd (a Mateh Binyamin Regional Council owned company) had been dead since 1961.


Black Wolves Pack

Mateh Binyamin Ignoring International and Israeli Law | Black Wolves Pack


On November 27, 2011, the Israeli Defense Ministry approved two plans which would create 119 new houses in Shilo. The plan will expand the settlement by 60%. This plan and another one at the nearby Shvut Rachel were reiterated yesterday to the Supreme Court. Since the Israeli Administration has no jurisdiction in the area, these issues are controlled by the IDF’s Civil Administration.

Shilo’s foundation year—the settlers had planned to occupy it four years before that, in 1974—make it among the first Jewish settlements in the West Bank. This was no casual move; it occupies the site of Biblical Shilo, which was the capital of Biblical Israel before Jerusalem replaced it (See Joshua 18:1; Exodus chapters 25 and 26, 1 Samuel chapters 3 and 4 and others). In other words, this is settlement aristocracy, with a name and location mentioned in the Pentateuch. This means the Israeli Administration will face serious political issues if it attempted to dismantle the illegal houses built in it. Even without the Biblical context, the dismantling of Jewish settlements by the Israeli government had been met with settler violence in the rare instances it occurred.


Would Netanyahu Surrender to the Rule of Law?


Does this mean that we will soon witness the destruction of settler houses in Shilo? Would the Israeli Administration dismantle Migron next month? To think in such a way would be naïve. Migron may be an illegal settlement even under the Israeli law, but this doesn't mean that Israel doesn't support it. A request for a cellular radio tower on the hill top was filed. The IDF granted it in spite of the land being owned by Palestinians. Later, five caravans were placed next to the radio tower. They had no authorization for that; yet, the IDF didn’t evacuate them. The money for the tower and the caravans, four million shekels, came from Israel’s Housing Ministry. There was neither statutory planning nor government decision on Migron. There could be neither of them, because it was private land which hadn't been confiscated. The government could not acknowledge in front of its institutions that it was creating an illegal settlement; thus it acted independently without bothering with formalities. In other words, it was an Israeli government theft even under its own laws. This is the archetypal Israeli settlements plan. One way or another, neither the new houses in Shilo nor the Migron outpost would be evacuated.

Shilo’s Synagogue

Shilo’s Synagogue

The path is clear. Benjamin Netanyahu announced it in January 2012; it has been nicknamed the "Migron law." The proposed law would allow only a military commander to order a settler off the land. The commander would be allowed to order the evacuation only if there is a final court order based on evidence issued by a court authorized to deal with land issues. If the new law is approved, no military commander would be allowed to dismantle Migron without a proper court order. It is already clear from the restrictions and the clumsy language of the proposed law, that such a process would be lengthy and probably involve several lawsuits at different courts. Next month, Netanyahu will probably tell the Supreme Court that he tried very hard to dismantle Migron and the new houses in Shilo, but wasn't allowed to do so by the new "Migron Law," the he himself proposed. In other words, the Israeli government would probably again ignore its laws and courts, and refuse to dismantle Migron. Instead, it would begin a new legal battle based on technicalities. Meanwhile, the true owners of the land cry out for justice while waiting out there in the cold.



* Israel’s State Attorney (in Hebrew: Praklitut Hamedinah) is the legal representative of the State of Israel in its courts.
** Attorney General of Israel (HaYoetz HaMishpati LaMemshala, literally The Legal Advisor to the Government) is the head of the executive branch legal system.

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