Israel Postpones Demolition of Illegal Outpost, Handing Settlers a Major Victory

Initially, the government argued that it was conducting negotiations with the residents of the outposts to evacuate them willingly, which never happened.

The settlers won a victory on Wednesday: The demolition of the illegal Givat Assaf outpost will be postponed by half a year. The settlers will continue discussions this morning with Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser and representatives of the State Prosecutor's Office on the justification for the postponement.

The High Court of Justice has been dealing with the case of Givat Assaf since 2007. At the time, Peace Now petitioned the High Court, asking for the court to order the demolition of six illegal outposts, including Givat Assaf. At first the state argued that it was conducting negotiations with the residents of the outposts to evacuate them willingly, which never happened. Later, after the High Court issued a temporary injunction against the outposts, the state claimed the evacuation was a matter of priorities.

Moti Milrod

After a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February this year, the government decided to change direction: The outposts on state-owned land will be made legal while those on private Palestinian-owned land will be evacuated by the end of this year.

The state was supposed to inform the High Court by November 1 on its progress in either legalizing the outposts, or on the preparations to dismantle them. Over the past two months, enormous political pressure was put on Netanyahu to prevent the demolition. Netanyahu initially wanted to establish a committee of legal experts to examine how to legalize the outposts on private land, but retreated from the idea following steadfast opposition from Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.

Netanyahu and Weinstein met Monday night. After the meeting, Netanyahu told a number of ministers he had no intention of creating a conflict with Weinstein, and there was a need to find a "creative solution" to the problem.

Also on Monday, some 150 pro-settler activists, including several MKs, marched from the Supreme Court to the Knesset to demand that Netanyahu hold a cabinet vote on the planned evacuation of illegal West Bank outposts. Once the idea of a committee to legalize the outposts was rejected, a decision was made to postpone the evacuations by six months.

Weinstein at first objected to this new plan, but agreed on condition that negations over an agreed upon evacuation be conducted with the settlers during this period - otherwise the demolition would happen. The settlers have not agreed to this formulation, and instead want the agreement to read that the two sides will search for solutions peacefully during the six months.

The state is scheduled to present its response to the High Court on the order to evacuate the outposts on Thursday, after two postponements. It seems the state's response will fall somewhere between its offer to the settlers and what the settlers want. In any case, the High Court justices would have to approve any further postponements of the demolition.

It is likely that the judges will not intervene at this stage, but they could set the state's new schedule for the evacuations as a binding court decision. This would be similar to the High Court decision concerning the demolition of a number of structures in Jabal Artis, where the state committed to the demolition by May 2012.

Now the matter of Givat Assaf has been taken off the immediate agenda, attention will shift to the evacuation of Migron. This large outpost, with 50 families, has a court order for its evacuation set for the end of March 2012. Migron will be a much harder case for Netanyahu to find a "creative solution" that will satisfy both the attorney general and Likud ministers.

 קראו כתבה זו בעברית: נתניהו חזר בו מהתחייבות לפנות את מאחז גבעת אסף