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Israel Supreme Court delays removal of largest illegal West Bank outpost

The Supreme Court of Israel [official website, in Hebrew] on Friday granted a government request to delay the removal of the Migron outpost [Peace Now backgrounder] in the West Bank [JURIST news archive]. The court had ordered [JURIST report], in a watershed decision in August 2011, that Migron be dismantled by this August, but decided to extend the deadline by three weeks after the government informed the court that the temporary housing site for the Migron settlers would not be ready by August 1. The state also expressed concern about possible Palestinian protests that could result from performing the evacuation during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends on August 18. Migron, the largest illegal settler outpost in the West Bank, houses 50 families. The Migron settlers claim they have long been encouraged by the state to erect the outpost [Reuters report], which has received more than four million shekels (USD $1.1 million) from the government but never an official sanction. Israel continues to distinguish between the approximately 120 sanctioned settlements and the 100 or so unauthorized outposts like Migron, erected by settlers without state permission, and the Israeli government has been accused of providing infrastructure and military protection to certain West Bank settlers in contravention of its own state law. The Palestinians, 2.5 million of whom live in the West Bank, claim the territory for a future state and have refused to continue peace negotiations with Israel until settlement construction is frozen. The West Bank currently holds more than 200 settlements and outposts [BBC materials], and with East Jerusalem is home to more than 500,000 Israeli settlers.

Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war and claims that it has a legal right to settle the territory because it is not legally occupied. In contrast the Palestinians and most of the international community argue that the West Bank was controlled by Jordan at the time of its capture, making it occupied territory that does not belong to Israel. Earlier this month more than 40 prominent American Jewish leaders and scholars sent an appeal letter [JURIST report] to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [official website] urging him to reject a recent report advocating legitimizing West Bank settlements. The letter's signatories predicted that Israel's international image would be damaged by endorsing the report, which was written by a government-commissioned panel [JURIST report] that included former Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy. Also this month the Israeli Supreme Court postponed the demolition of other illegal West Bank settlements [JURIST report], with 30 apartments having had been scheduled for demolition on July 1. West Bank settlements have caused tension between Israel and Palestinian authorities, as well as criticism by international groups, despite the Israeli parliament's vote [JURIST report] against legalizing the unauthorized settlement last month. Also last month the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories Richard Falk demanded [JURIST report] Israel cease its demolition [press release] of Palestinian buildings in the West Bank settlements after finding that the demolition of Palestinian structures such as houses, animal shelters, water cisterns and roads have risen by 87 percent from last year.

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