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West Bank

Israeli high court rejects government plea, orders West Bank settlement removal

The Israeli government's plea to delay evacuating a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, has been rejected by the Supreme Court. The government is now maneuvering to try and avoid carrying out the court's ruling.

Israel's Supreme Court ruled on Monday that Amona, a so-called wildcat settlement in the West Bank, must be evacuated by late December.

"The evacuation must occur before December 25," the court said in its ruling. "The court rejects the delay requested by the state."

The settlement is built on private Palestinian land, but right-wing Israeli politicians want the 40 or so families occupying the out post to be allowed to stay.

Whether Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing government moves forward with the court-ordered demolition is seen as a test case of whether it will heed international calls for it to halt its ongoing settlement developments in the West Bank.

A Jewish settler

A Jewish settler, known only as Nili, holds a print (see top photo) in which she is seen resisting Israeli security forces

Even though the high court first ruled in 2014 that Amona - which lies northeast of Ramallah in the central West Bank - must be evacuated, the government still sought a seven-month delay in the latest hearing.

Key elements of Netanyahu's government are pushing for more settlement building, and openly opposing the idea of a Palestinian state.

"We're aware of the duress of the Amona residents and are acting in different ways to solve the problem," Netanyahu told his Likud party members on Monday.

Threat of violence

Whether the evacuation would take place without violence is unclear. In 2006, the destruction of nine permanent homes in the settlement sparked tense clashes between the settlers and Israeli forces.

Undeterred by the court ruling, the Israeli government wants to pass a law that would make Amona and other wildcat settlements in the West Bank legal. A committee of Israeli ministers approved a bill on Sunday to do just that.

Watch video 03:55

West Bank heritage site highlights tensions

The measure calls for the legalization of settlement homes built on private Palestinian land in areas that meat certain criteria. That includes Palestinian landowners being offered compensation in exchange for the land being seized.

The proposed legislation could affect as many as 3,000 settler homes in the West Bank, which Israel seized during the 1967 Six Day War. But Palestinians want this land for their own state.

The bill still needs to be passed by the Israeli parliament - the Knesset.

The international community considers all Israeli settlements in the occupied territory of the West Bank and Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem to be illegal, regardless of whether the government has authorized them.

But the Israeli government distinguishes between the settlements it has approved and those it has not.

Settlements are a major stumbling block to peace efforts as they are built on the same land that Palestinians see as their future state. Israel now has 400,000 settlers living in the occupied West Bank, among 2.6 million Palestinians.

bik/ksb (AFP, AP)

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