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Israel seeks compromise on illegal outpost

After High Court of Justice orders the Israeli government to demolish biggest West Bank outpost, government proposes deal to postpone evacuation of illegal settlers

AFP , Sunday 22 Jan 2012
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Israel on Sunday proposed a compromise deal allowing residents of an illegal West Bank outpost that the high court has ordered evacuated to stay in their homes while new ones are constructed nearby.

The High Court of Justice has ordered the government to demolish the Migron outpost, which was established on private Palestinian land and without government authorisation, by the end of March 2012.

But under a proposal by cabinet minister Benny Begin and approved by the government on Sunday, residents would be allowed to remain in their homes until new ones are built for them around two kilometres away (just over a mile).

The new location, also in the West Bank, would be on land under full Israeli control.

The area where Migron currently stands would be handed to Israel's Civil Administration, the military government that administers the portions of the West Bank under full Israeli civil and military control.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his ministers that the deal could help resolve a sensitive issue.

"This is a good suggestion, it doesn't solve all the problems, but can solve Migron's," he told members of his cabinet.

Migron has been facing evacuation for years, but successive Israeli governments have been slow to move on shutting down the outpost, the biggest in the West Bank, for fear of angering the powerful settler movement.

The high court itself noted that it saw "great importance to a peaceful resolution of the issue by consent, rather than by forceful eviction."

Any proposal would have to be approved by Migron's residents before the court greenlights it.

Migron resident Itai Harel, speaking to Israeli public radio, said the community would consider the deal, but he rejected the assertion that the outpost was built on private Palestinian land.

He said the Jerusalem magistrate's court had last week determined that the Palestinians who petitioned for Migron's removal "had no rights over the land."

Peace Now, an Israeli group that opposes settlement construction, condemned the deal, calling it a "a cynical spin designed to not have to implement the court's decision and to postpone evacuation of the outpost for years to come."

Israel considers settlement outposts built without government approval to be illegal and often sends security personnel to demolish them. They usually consist of little more than a few trailers.

The international community considers all Jewish settlements built in the West Bank -- including east Jerusalem -- to be illegal.

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