JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel’s high court ruled on Wednesday that the largest unauthorized Jewish settler outpost on occupied West Bank territory must be evacuated by next Tuesday.
The court rejected an appeal by the settlers to delay the evacuation of Migron, a hilltop settlement of about 50 families, which a separate ruling a year ago decided was built on privately-owned Palestinian land.
The Migron settlement was one of dozens built more than a decade ago without Israeli government authorization on land captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War but which Palestinians claim for a hoped-for independent state.
The court had delayed several deadlines set for evacuating the settlement in the past year, after last-minute appeals, and has now dismissed the latest request.
In their latest appeal, settlers had sought a delay in moving out, saying temporary homes for them elsewhere in the West Bank were not ready. Others maintained they had purchased the land in question.
“We order the petitioners be evacuated from the outpost not later than September 4, 2012 and that the buildings be removed no later than September 11, 2012. The appeal has been rejected,” the court said in its written ruling.
The Israeli authorities have voiced concern that settlers could respond violently to any evacuation orders. Earlier on Wednesday, a Palestinian vehicle was torched in a village not far from Migron, and the words “Price tag- Migron” was scribbled on a wall. There were no reported injuries.
Settlers in numerous instances have defied government orders and rebuilt unauthorized outposts that had been removed.
Settler leaders, at a news conference at Migron, condemned the ruling. Avi Ro‘eh, head of a settlement bloc in the Migron area, called it a “painful and sad moment,” adding in defiance: “This ruling won’t stop settlement here.”
Migron settlers charged the state encouraged them to erect their outpost. Though it never received official sanction, the government has spent at least 4 million shekels ($1.1 million) on maintaining the cluster of mobile homes.
Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian Liberation Organisation executive committee member, was critical of how long Israel was taking to evict the settlers.
“The Israeli government is using Migron to show that evacuating outposts is complicated, in order to never attempt at evacuating larger settlements,” Ashrawi charged, in remarks to Reuters.
“The reality is this outpost should been evacuated a long time ago, without question.”
Jewish settlements built on territory Israel captured in a 1967 war is one of the main obstacles to a resumption of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks stalled since late 2010.
The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem and say settlements deny them a contiguous, viable entity.
The United Nations deems all Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be illegal. Israel disputes this and distinguishes between about 120 settlements it has sanctioned and about 100 outposts erected by settlers without authorization.
About 311,000 Israeli settlers and 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank.
Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Michael Roddy and Angus MacSwan