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Jerusalem - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought on Sunday a way to implement a Supreme Court ruling to remove five settler buildings erected on private Palestinian land without alienating his political supporters.
Netanyahu's right-wing government has until July 1 to carry out the court's decision but it faces an earlier deadline, Wednesday, when ultranationalist legislators plan to submit a bill to legalise the dwellings retroactively, a law he opposes.
About 30 families live in the five three-storey stone apartment buildings in the Ulpana neighbourhood of the Beit El settlement in the occupied West Bank.
Government officials said on Sunday Netanyahu had proposed a plan that would avoid demolishing the homes. Engineers would instead cut through their foundations and move them to another part of the settlement where no land ownership claim is pending in court.
He also plans to build 10 homes in Beit El for each of the five apartment buildings that is moved, the officials said, in an apparent attempt to appease the Jewish families and their supporters.
Palestinians fear Israeli settlements, built on land Israel captured in a 1967 war, will deny them a viable state. The U.N. World Court considers the settlements illegal but Israel, citing historical and Biblical links to the territory, disputes this.
Before making a final decision on his plan, Netanyahu has asked Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to advise whether it would hold up to court challenges, the officials said.
The prospect of forcing settlers from their homes has turned into a political minefield for Netanyahu, who heads the right-wing Likud party and has long banked on the support of settlers and their backers.
But Netanyahu would also likely face a public outcry should he be seen as defying the Supreme Court, which many Israelis regard as an important independent watchdog over the government.
“The idea that the government will clash with the Supreme Court has been dropped,” Cabinet minister Dan Meridor said on Army Radio, referring to Netanyahu's opposition to the bid in parliament to circumvent the Ulpana ruling with a new law. - Reuters