The Israeli Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned an eviction order that determined a Jewish settlement had been built improperly on privately owned Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.
The judges found that although the Mitzpe Kramim outpost was built on privately owned Palestinian land, it had been given to the settlers in “good faith” by the Israeli government.
Therefore, the 40 Jewish families living there can remain, the judges said.
There are fears from Palestinians and human rights groups that this could set a precedent for future disputes over Jewish settlements built on privately owned land.
Peace Now, an Israeli anti-settlement watchdog, called the ruling an “absurd decision".
The group said there were an estimated 150 unauthorised outposts in the West Bank. Peace Now fears that Wednesday’s decision could open the floodgates for similar rulings.
“These outposts in the future might be recognised by Israeli law,” said Mauricio Lapchik, a Peace Now spokesman. “This is the biggest danger.”
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war and has built more than 130 authorised settlements there, many of which resemble small towns, with apartment blocks, shopping malls and industrial zones.
The Palestinians want the West Bank to form the main part of their future state.
While Israel differentiates between recognised settlements and unauthorised outposts, the international community overwhelmingly views all settlements as illegal and obstacles to peace.
Israel considers the West Bank to be the heartland of the Jewish people.
It regards the West Bank as disputed territory and says its fate should be subject to negotiations. Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed more than a decade ago.
In 2018, the Jerusalem District Court issued a decision legalising Mitzpe Kramim, saying the settlers who bought the land acted in “good faith” and were unaware they were building on privately owned Palestinian property.
That ruling was appealed against in Israel’s Supreme Court, which ordered residents of Mitzpe Kramim to be moved out.