Deal with settlers over illegal outpost 'a disgrace'

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The Independent Online

Jewish settlers have agreed to leave the largest unauthorised outpost in the occupied West Bank and move to a nearby hill in a compromise deal with the Israeli government that an anti-settler advocacy group denounced as "a disgrace".

The move comes after months of negotiations between settlers and the coalition government, dominated by pro-settler parties, after the Supreme Court ordered the 50 Jewish families to leave by 31 March, saying the land belonged to Palestinians.

The fate of Migron has been viewed as a crucial test of Israel's willingness to restrict the expansion of Jewish settlements, considered illegal under international law. Following commitments made by Israel in the 1990s to cease building new settlements, Migron, established a decade ago, is viewed as illegal under Israeli law. But despite a promise to the US in 2003 to dismantle it and other outposts, Israel has never done so.

Settlers, who threatened violence if the state forcibly removed them from Migron, welcomed the deal. If the Supreme Court approves it, the families will relocate to nearby state-owned land, still in occupied territory, over the next three years.

Peace Now, an Israeli group that monitors settlement building, accused the government of colluding with settlers. "This agreement is no less than a disgrace. The government of Israel is actually saying 'We will not evict Migron, we will not do what the Supreme Court told us'," Peace Now's Hagit Ofran told Reuters. "It sends a message that Israel [does not want] peace [and will] build more settlements."