- Associated Press - Sunday, March 25, 2012

JERUSALEM The Israeli Supreme Court on Sunday rejected the state’s request to postpone the dismantling of a large, unsanctioned West Bank settler enclave until 2015, dealing a blow to settlers’ hopes to keep dozens of rogue outposts standing.

The state submitted the delay petition earlier this month, seeking to bypass the high court’s earlier order to dismantle the Migron outpost by March 31 because it was built on private Palestinian land.

Migron, home to 300 settlers, is one of the largest unauthorized enclaves and a symbol of settler defiance.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pro-settler coalition had asked the court to let Migron’s settlers stay put until new homes would be built for them on a nearby West Bank hilltop by November 2015.

The court ruled that accepting the state’s agreement would be tantamount to flouting the rule of law. “The obligation to fulfill the [earlier] ruling is not a matter of choice,” it said.

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 until Aug. 1.

“The Israeli high court upheld today the rule of law and indicated that the law applies to all,” Mr. Sfard said. “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, my clients.”

Migron’s residents dispute the state’s position that their outpost stands on private land.

“The residents of Migron received today the harsh court ruling, which is based on the false claim of privately held land, and whose objective is the expulsion of peace-loving people,” said Migron spokesman Itai Chemo.

The Palestinians claim the West Bank for their future state, along with Gaza and East Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. They see all Israeli settlement as illegal encroachment on land they claim for their hoped-for state.

While Israel has given its authorization to more than 120 settlements, outposts like Migron do not have even that level of legitimacy because their construction was not officially sanctioned. Even so, the government has hooked them up to utility grids and has sent soldiers to protect them.

Palestinian government spokesman Ghassan Khatib said the Palestinians would reserve judgment on the ruling until they see whether the government complies.

Jewish settlers began setting up outposts without government approval in the 1990s, after Israeli governments pledged they would not build new settlements.



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