The Supreme Court of Israel [official website, in Hebrew] on Tuesday issued for the first time an order for the Israeli government to dismantle an illegal outpost in the West Bank. The order calls for Migron, the largest outpost in the West Bank, to be razed by the end of March 2012 [Haaretz report]. The action came as the result of a petition [materials] filed by Peace Now [advocacy website] in 2006 calling for the court to order Migron to be dismantled. In response the government had decided to remove the flagship settlement by August 2008, but later reached a compromise with settlers [Sydney Morning Herald report] that delayed the razing until the state could build them a new neighborhood in a nearby settlement. However, the delay only allowed more houses to be built, and the Court noted during deliberations that the intended two-year postponement had actually turned into an indefinite delay. Approximately 50 families, about 300 residents, currently live on the hilltop settlement, which is about five kilometers from Jerusalem. Few of the scores of settlements that have spread across the West Bank in recent decades have been built with official government approval, but many have goverment-funded access to roads and electricity and water hookups. Migron in particular is an unauthorized settlement setting atop privately owned Palestinian land.
Israeli outposts in the West Bank are illegal under Israeli and international law. Last year, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] called Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank "illegal" [JURIST report]. The statement came two weeks after Israel announced the construction of 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], where Palestinians hope to establish the capital of their future state. Ban said, "the world has condemned Israel's settlement expansion plans in East Jerusalem. Let us be clear, all settlement activities [are] illegal anywhere in Occupied Territory... I urge all parties to respect sensitives and promote calm. We can and must find a way for Jerusalem to emerge from negotiations as the capital of two states with arrangements for holy sites acceptable to all." Also last year, Israel began rerouting a segment of its West Bank security barrier [official website; JURIST news archive] shifting the controversial barrier's path several hundred yards west [JURIST report] of its current location to return more than 800,000 square yards of land to Palestinian farmers. The move comes more than two years after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that the government must change the route because it excessively encroached on Palestinian territory and infringed on residents' rights to access fields and orchards blocked by the barrier.