Settler: Unauthorized outpost to stay 2 more years

DANIEL ESTRIN Associated Press Published:

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israeli settlers from an unauthorized West Bank outpost said Monday they reached a deal with the country's government to allow them to stay put for two more years, despite Israeli Supreme Court orders to evacuate them next month.

The Migron settlement, built in 2001 on what authorities say is private Palestinian land, is seen as a test case for the Israeli government's resolve -- or lack thereof -- concerning unauthorized settlement outposts.

Israel will build an entirely new settlement on a nearby hilltop to house the evicted Migron dwellers, said Itay Chemo, spokesman of the Migron settlement. The decision comes despite an Israeli promise to the U.S. that it would not initiate new settlements in the West Bank, nor expand existing ones.

"We think it is a victory," Chemo said. "Finally there is an agreement to bring about justice, not just to destroy, and to take a little bit of national responsibilty."

He said a government representative reached an agreement with Migron settlers to delay their eviction until Israel finishes building the new settlement, which will take about two years and three months to complete.

He said that the government representative, Benny Begin, also promised that the evacuated outpost would be put to public use, such as for agriculture or tourism. Begin was unavailable for comment.

An Israeli government spokesman could not confirm the deal, which needs Supreme Court approval.

Israel promised the U.S. in 2003 to dismantle Migron and dozens more unauthorized settler outposts built on land Palestinians claim for a future state. But it has flouted that promise.

Migron was built in 2001 on what authorities say is private Palestinian land. Settlers say no Arab plaintiffs have yet proved land ownership. They say they have a God-given right to populate the West Bank.

The Israeli dovish group Peace Now objected to the proposal.