Setback for Netanyahu as court rules against settlers

Israel's Supreme Court has demanded that Jewish settlers evacuate an illegal West Bank outpost by 1 August, rejecting a government-backed deal that would have allowed them to remain there for another three years.

The surprise ruling is a humiliation for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his pro-settler coalition, which agreed the widely-scorned compromise to circumvent a court order calling for the dismantlement of Migron, built on private Palestinian land, by 31 March.

Many had expected the Supreme Court to rubber stamp the state's compromise amid fears that settlers would respond with violence if forcefully evacuated. But, in a decision hailed by Israeli NGOs as a victory for the rule of law, the court said that "the obligation to fulfill the [earlier] ruling is not a matter of choice".

Half a million Jewish settlers live in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, territory captured by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War, and wanted by the Palestinians for their future state along with the Gaza Strip. Many believe the Jews have a divine claim to biblical Israel.

All Jewish settlements are considered illegal under international law, but outposts, sometimes mere trailer camps atop hills in the occupied West Bank, are illegal under Israeli law, too.

Settlers in Migron immediately condemned the ruling.