Israel is considering legalizing a West Bank outpost slated to be demolished in a breach of its promise to refrain from creating any new West Bank settlement.
The decision was announced on Sunday in response to a petition regarding the Derech Ha’avot outpost, which includes 17 permanent settlement units and 15 mobile ones, in Gush Etzion.
Even though the entire Derech Ha’avot outpost was built without a permit, Israel is considering retroactively legalizing all of those structures that were not built on privately owned Palestinian land, The Jerusalem Post quoted Israeli authorities as saying ahead of a High Court of Justice hearing scheduled for Monday.
The comments came in response to a petition filed by a group of Palestinian farmers from the West Bank village of El Khader together with the Israeli-based NGO, Peace Now, who charged that the buildings of Derech Ha’avot were erected on the farmers’ land.
The Palestinians said that they owned the land and had cultivated it until the crackdown on the second intifada in 2000, when they had been compelled to abandon their farms due to Israeli-imposed curfews and closures that had forced them to remain at home.
The Israeli authorities initially acknowledged that all the construction was illegal and that demolition orders had been issued against all the structures. They argued, however, that since the land had not been registered, it was unclear whether or not it was privately owned by the Palestinians.
Derech Ha’avot was established in February 2001, one month before the deadline set in the "Road Map" agreement between Israel and the US. The agreement also required Israel to dismantle all outposts built after March 2001.
Israel has constructed at least 26 settlements since that time. Most of the structures are still standing despite demolition orders issued against them.