Israel court puts 60-day hold on settlement razings (REUTERS) By Ori Lewis JERSALEM, ISRAEL 04/29/12 6:26pm EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - Israel´s Supreme Court postponed the razing of five
unauthorized buildings in the West Bank on Sunday, a ruling that gave
the government more time to argue against their demolition and
placate pro-settler political partners.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu´s government agreed last year to
remove the apartment blocks on the edge of the Beit El settlement,
after a court ruled they were built on private Palestinian land.
But Netanyahu has come under intense pressure from within his own
right-wing Likud party and from other pro-settler coalition allies to
delay the demolition.
The court said it would freeze the demolition, originally scheduled
for May 1, for 60 days and meet again at the end of that period to
hear the government´s argument.
"No later than 60 days from today the State Attorney´s office will
present an updated declaration and according to what it says, we will
decide how to proceed with this petition," part of the court´s ruling
A statement by the Yesh Din human rights group that helped the
Palestinian land owner bring the petition said the ruling showed the
court had bowed to political pressure.
Yesh Din director Haim Erlich said it was "a disturbing decision that
raises the concern the Supreme Court cannot withstand the heavy
pressure exerted on it by the Israeli government".
On Friday, the government asked for a three-month delay,
citing "operational reasons", although it did not say what they were.
Most of the international community views all Jewish settlements in
the West Bank as illegal. Israel distinguishes between settlements it
has approved and outposts which were never granted official
Netanyahu´s government is trying to retrospectively legalize some of
the sites that settlers erected without the approval of the Israeli
authorities, drawing often strong condemnation from Western allies
and Palestinian leaders.
Last week, the government granted legal status to three previously
unauthorized Jewish outposts - a move critics said had effectively
created the first new official settlements in more than two decades.
Palestinians fear such outposts, and 130 formal settlements Israel
has built in the territory it captured in a 1967 war, will deny them
a viable state they want to establish in the West Bank and the Gaza
Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital.
About 350,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank, with a further
200,000 living on annexed land in East Jerusalem. (Writing by Ori
Lewis; Editing by Andrew Heavens)(© Thomson Reuters 2012. 04/29/12)
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