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Jerusalem Post: "State delays Givat Asaf, Amona outpost demolitions"

"Today the government made it clear that it is not the law that rules in Israel, but the law breakers" (Michael Sfard, attorney for Peace Now and Yesh Din)

AFP: "Israel asks court to postpone razing of two settler outposts"
is posted below the Jerusalem Post article.

Jerusalem Post: "State delays Givat Asaf, Amona outpost demolitions"

11/10/2011 20:05

Netanyahu, Barak ask High Court for one-year delay to demolish two West Bank settlement outposts it said it would evacuate by end of the year.

The state on Thursday agreed to delay the impending demolitions of two unauthorized West Bank outposts built on private Palestinian property -- Givat Asaf and Amona.

Both of the small hilltop communities in the Binyamin region, were scheduled to be evacuated by the end of this year. Instead the state notified the High Court of Justice that July was the new demolition date for Givat Asaf and that Amona would come down at the end of 2012.

Right-wing politicians who had lobbied hard for the delay, hailed it as a partial victory in a stiff struggle to prevent any further demolitions of settler homes.

"We won the battle but not the war," said MK Danny Danon (Likud).

But attorney Michael Sfard who represented the Palestinian landowners at both outposts through the sponsorship of two left-wing groups, Peace Now and Yesh Din, bitterly attacked the state's decision.

"Today the government made it clear that it is not the law that rules in Israel, but the law breakers," he said.

On Monday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu angered his party when he urged them not to invest their energy in preserving outposts on private Palestinian land.

"We do not need to build on land that belongs to someone else," he said.

On Thursday, he and Defense Minister Ehud Barak asked the High Court of Justice to delay the home demolitions in these two outposts, from December 2011 to July 2012, so that the matter could be "solved by agreement."

The vague wording puzzled those on the right and the left.

Still it was good news for settler residents and for right-wing politicians, for whom any delay means a chance to stave off the razing of homes.

They have now pinned their hope on Netanyahu's pledge to create an outpost committee to re-examine the status of land, which the state says belongs to private Palestinians.

Settlers believe that state improperly classified the land, and that with a better examination, it could be determined that the property belonged to the state.

The issue of home demolitions is the result of a number of court petitions by Peace Now and Yesh Din against unauthorized construction in West Bank outposts.

But already last spring, the state told the court that it was looking at ways to authorize outpost construction on state land. It promised the court, however, to raze homes on private Palestinians land by the end of 2011.

On Thursday it partially backed away from that pledge.

With Givat Asaf, it said it had begun talks with residents about relocating. With regard to Amona, it said it believed the problem could be resolved.

The state, however, told the court that it still intends to take down some of the homes on the Ramat Giald and Mitzpe Yitzhar outposts in Samaria. Both of those outposts are only partially built on private Palestinian property.

The state also still intends to demolish the Migron outpost in the Binyamin region in March.

Sfard dismissed the state's statements about the possibility of a peaceful resolution in Givat Asaf and Amona. He noted that the state had a long history of finding reasons why not moving against the unauthorized outposts.

"I don't believe they need time to negotiate," he said.

"This is an excuses for not taking action now," Sfard said.

But Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein that the issue was not by-passing the law. Time is needed to ensure that the law had been properly interpreted and that all attempts for a peaceful resolution had been made, Edelstein said.

It was important to avoid the kind of clashes that occurred in 2006, between activists and police, when the army destroyed nine homes at the Amona outpost, Edelstein said.

"We are talking about avoiding a totally unnecessary battle, that would inflame streets [of Judea and Samaria]," Edelstein said.


AFP: "Israel asks court to postpone razing of two settler outposts"

10 November 2011

JERUSALEM -- Israel's government on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to postpone demolition of two settlement outposts built on private Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank, the justice ministry said.

The petitions asked that the court-ordered demolition of Givat Assaf be delayed until June and that of Amona until December 2012.

Both sites, which are located in the northern West Bank, were among six outposts which the court had ordered to be taken down by the end of this year.

The petitioners argued issue of so-called wildcat settlement outposts lay "at the centre of a political debate in Israel" which the government was seeking to resolve "peacefully" with the settler community.

Israel considers settlement outposts built without government approval to be illegal and often sends security personnel to demolish them. They usually consist of little more than a few trailers.

But the international community considers all settlements built in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, to be illegal.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday urged settlers to act with restraint after 12 were arrested in a clash with police who were demolishing part of an outpost east of Ramallah.

But he reassured the settler movement, from which his coalition government draws much of its support, that he was committed to building in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem.

"Our main effort should be put into strengthening settlement, not in conflict with the law, and certainly not through conflict with one another," he told his ruling Likud party.

Demolition of a handful of outposts built on privately owned Palestinian land was ordered by the Supreme Court in August after a legal battle waged by Palestinian land-owners.

Among the sites slated for removal are Givat Assaf and Amona as well as parts of Givat HaRoeh, Ramat Gilad and Bnei Adam.

A sixth outpost, Migron, is to be taken down by the end of March 2012.

Figures compiled by settlement watchdog Peace Now show 70 outposts are built either entirely or partially on private Palestinian land, although not all of them are currently being subjected to legal challenges.

Peace Now Secretary General Yariv Oppenheimer accused the right-wing government of bending to settler pressure by seeking the postponements.

"The government is violating its own commitment to dismantle by the end of the year all outposts built on private Palestinian land, yielding again to settler pressure in a political calculation," he told AFP.