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The State Prosecution on Sunday informed the High Court of Justice that it was considering legalizing a West Bank outpost comprising 40 houses initially slated for demolition.

The Nativ Ha'avot outpost is located in Gush Etzion, the largest settlement bloc in the West Bank. The structures were built in 2001 on private property andwithout official permits.

The Israeli anti-settlement watchdog, Peace Now, had petitioned the court to carry out a long-awaited demolition. The High Court followed up on the petition by ordering the state to present a timetable for the operation.

In response, the state said that its resources were being directed toward preventing construction of new outposts, rather than the demolition of already existing structures.

The State Prosecution has now announced that it has changed its position on the outpost, explaining that a new ground survey was needed to determine whether the structures were indeed built on private property.

If the survey should conclude that the land was private, the structures will be demolished; however, said the prosecution, if the land is found to be stat eproperty, then it would consider the possibility of providing the outpost with legal building permits, retroactively.

A hearing on the matter will be held on Monday.

Peace Now chairman Yariv Oppenheimer, said the state's decision showed that " Israel's real face has been exposed? by announcing, black on white, that it intends to legalize an outpost andactively erect a new settlement."

Shaul Goldstein, chairman of the Gush Etzion regional council, responded to Peace Now criticism by saying: "If the members of Peace Now were real people, and not hypocrites, law-abiders and not law-breakers, the states' response to the court would have satisfied the mas it answers the legal criteria."

"I am grateful to the government for its brave decision, for not giving in to the left and calling on the state to legalize theoutposts that can be legalized," Goldstein added.