High Court rejects Peace Now outpost petition

Saying that the new government needs time to develop its position with respect to the unauthorized outposts in the West Bank, the High Court of Justice on Tuesday rejected a Peace Now petition calling for the immediate removal of six of them. Evacuation orders for the six outposts were issued two years ago, but no action was ever taken. In April, Peace Now petitioned the court to order the Defense Ministry to remove Givat Assaf, Ma'aleh Rehavam, Mitzpe Lachish, Givat Haroeh, Mitzpe Yitzhar and Ramat Gilad. But on Tuesday the court opted to give the state more time to act. "We have to give the new government time to formulate its policy in light of its priorities regarding the entire matter of the unauthorized outposts," the justices said. "There is no need for us to intervene at this time." But they did say that they were open to receiving the petition again should the state fail to take any action on the matter. Their decision was greeted with claims of victory from both the Right and the Left. Peace Now spokesman Yaariv Oppenheimer said he was satisfied with the decision in light of statements Justice Minister Haim Ramon made on Monday in which he said he would begin evacuating unauthorized outposts in a few weeks. Oppenheimer said he saw the court's decision as proof that the government planned to move against the outposts, rendering such a decision unnecessary. It was on the basis of a Peace Now petition that the IDF demolished nine empty homes at the Amona outpost in Samaria on February 1. Hilik Navon, spokesman for the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, said, "We bless the decision." Had the court chosen the same path before Amona, the violent clashes between activists and security forces in there could have been avoided, he said. Navon dismissed Ramon's statements regarding future outposts evacuations. Last week, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter promised to inform the settler leaders of any impending evacuations. Navon said the council has received no such notification. "We believe the government will stand by their word," he said. There are approximately 105 unauthorized outposts in the West Bank. The government has said it is determined to evacuate 24 that were earmarked for demolition by prime minister Ariel Sharon. The six outposts named in the Peace Now petition are among that group of 24.