Israel’s government on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to postpone demolition of two settlement outposts built on private Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank, the justice ministry said.
The petitions asked that the court-ordered demolition of Givat Assaf be delayed until June and that of Amona until December 2012.
Both sites, which are located in the northern West Bank, were among six outposts which the court had ordered to be taken down by the end of this year.
The petitioners argued issue of so-called wildcat settlement outposts lay “at the centre of a political debate in Israel” which the government was seeking to resolve “peacefully” with the settler community.
Israel considers settlement outposts built without government approval to be illegal and often sends security personnel to demolish them. They usually consist of little more than a few trailers.
But the international community considers all settlements built in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, to be illegal.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday urged settlers to act with restraint after 12 were arrested in a clash with police who were demolishing part of an outpost east of Ramallah.
But he reassured the settler movement, from which his coalition government draws much of its support, that he was committed to building in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem.
“Our main effort should be put into strengthening settlement, not in conflict with the law, and certainly not through conflict with one another,” he told his ruling Likud party.
Demolition of a handful of outposts built on privately owned Palestinian land was ordered by the Supreme Court in August after a legal battle waged by Palestinian land-owners.
Among the sites slated for removal are Givat Assaf and Amona as well as parts of Givat HaRoeh, Ramat Gilad and Bnei Adam.
A sixth outpost, Migron, is to be taken down by the end of March 2012.
Figures compiled by settlement watchdog Peace Now show 70 outposts are built either entirely or partially on private Palestinian land, although not all of them are currently being subjected to legal challenges.
Peace Now Secretary General Yariv Oppenheimer accused the right-wing government of bending to settler pressure by seeking the postponements.
“The government is violating its own commitment to dismantle by the end of the year all outposts built on private Palestinian land, yielding again to settler pressure in a political calculation,” he told AFP.