Author : Reuters | Readings : 30 | Date : 2012-06-26
BEIT EL - Settlers on Tuesday began moving out of apartment blocs that Israel's Supreme Court ruled had been built illegally on Palestinian-owned land, after reaching an agreement with the government to go quietly.
A promise by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to build 851 new homes for settlers in the occupied West Bank, including 300 near the unauthorized enclave where the evictions were taking place, smoothed the way to the deal last week.
Sixteen of the 30 families in the contested Ulpana neighborhood of the Beit El settlement were due to leave their homes during the day, with the rest to follow in about a week.
At least four of the families said they would launch "peaceful resistance" to the evacuation, Israeli news site Ynet reported.
The court had ruled that five Ulpana apartment blocs must be torn down by July 1, landing Netanyahu, whose core constituency is pro-settlement, in a political and legal minefield.
Israel is already hard-put to defend settlement activity in the face of world opinion and international law. The United Nations deems all settlements in the West Bank to be illegal.
Israel disputes this and has sanctioned 120 official settlements, distinguishing between them and outposts that were never official authorized.
Settlers, some wearing shirts with the slogan "Ulpana neighborhood, we will return" watched glumly as removal men hauled boxes out of their homes to take to their temporary housing in a nearby military camp.
"We are happy about the addition of a new residential neighborhood in Beit El, which is three times the size of the neighborhood here," said Baruch Gordon, an Ulpana settler.
"On the other hand, we are very, very deeply saddened at what in our eyes is a tremendous injustice, the decision of the Supreme Court."
Palestinians, who seek statehood in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, fear the enclaves built on land Israel captured in a 1967 war will deny them a viable country, and say they cannot return to peace talks with Israel while it continues to expand settlements.
Some 311,000 Israeli settlers and 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank, not including East Jerusalem