The Israeli Supreme Court has ordered a Jewish settlement in the West Bank to be dismantled by August 1st. The outpost known as Migron was built on privately held Palestinian land in 2001, is home to 300 settlers, and is one of the largest unauthorized Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now filed a lawsuit alongside six Palestinian landowners over five years ago, but Israeli state officials had submitted a lengthy delay in dismantling the settlement until 2015.
The court decision to limit the delay to several months has been received with hesitant praise by anti-settlement activists and Palestinian officials.
However, the leader of the settlement Shimon Riklin told Israeli TV that the evacuation of Migron "would not pass quietly", as Palestinian government spokesman Ghassan Khatib expressed some skepticism that the ruling will be carried out, changing Israeli policy.
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Israel Court Rejects Settlement Demolition Delay (Agence France-Presse):
Israel's Supreme Court on Sunday rejected a deal that would have given the government three years to evacuate Migron, the West Bank's biggest and oldest settlement outpost, court documents showed.
The court said it would extend a deadline it set last year from March to August 2012, but that it could not approve any further delay.
"We are pushing the evacuation back by four months, it must take place no later than August 1, 2012," the court decision said.
The Israeli government had sought court approval for a deal it agreed with Migron's residents after the court ordered the outpost to be dismantled last August.
Under the deal, Migron's residents were to be allowed to remain at the outpost until November 2015 while the government built them new homes on land elsewhere in the West Bank, just a few kilometres (miles) away. [...]
Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now, which first filed a lawsuit along with six Palestinian landowners more than five years ago, hailed the Supreme Court's decision.
"We are satisfied by the fact that the Supreme Court gave a clear-cut decision telling the settlers and the government that no one is above the law and everyone has to obey the law," the group's director Yaariv Oppenheimer told AFP.
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Israeli Court Rules Against Illegal Settlement (The Guardian/UK):
Ultranationalists began settling Migron more than a decade ago on a windswept West Bank hilltop about 10 miles north of Jerusalem.
The government said settlers took over the territory unlawfully in 2001. Settlers claim Arab plaintiffs have not proven ownership of the land and note that government officials helped them to set up their outpost, even though it was not officially sanctioned. [...]
Jewish settlers began setting up more than 100 outposts without government approval in the 1990s, after Israeli governments pledged not to build new settlements. Israel promised the US more than a decade ago to dismantle two dozen outposts built after 2001, including Migron. But violent clashes with settlers over the destruction of isolated structures, combined with political and legal obstacles, discouraged the government from honouring its pledge.
Attorney Michael Sfard, who represented the Palestinian landowners in court, welcomed the ruling and said he had no problem with the court's agreement to extend the evacuation deadline to 1 August.
"I hope that the government and the settlers will not try to pull any tricks and will not try to circumvent this important decision, and that the residents of Migron will evacuate the illegal outpost peacefully, so that the land will be returned after a decade to its legal owners," Sfard said. [...]
Palestinian government spokesman Ghassan Khatib said the Palestinians would reserve judgment on the ruling.
"We will judge the matter by deeds, rather by than decisions, words or intentions," he said. "Migron is only one of too many Israeli outpost-settlements that are supposed to be evacuated. The Israeli behaviour vis-a-vis this, and other outposts, is an example that illustrates Israel's intention to consolidate the occupation, rather than end it," Khatib said.
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