The state announced Sunday that it is considering legalizing Derech Ha'avot outpost in Gush Etzion despite the fact that the illegal structures it is comprised of are currently being reviewed by the High Court of Justice for possible demolition.
Two years ago the Peace Now organization and residents of the villages surrounding the West Bank outpost filed a petition with the High Court, in which they claimed that it was built on private Palestinian land and therefore must be evacuated.
In July of 2009 the court ordered the State Prosecutor's Office to present a schedule for the demolition of the 25 structures making up the outpost.
Then, four months ago, the prosecution filed an announcement with the court saying that a government freeze on construction in settlements had altered the circumstances of many outposts, and that the state planned to investigate whether Derech Ha'avot had really been built on private land.
On Sunday the prosecution told the court that if the probe concluded the land was not private but rather state-owned, then the outpost and its structures may be legalized. If, however, the land turned out to be private, the prosecution said, then demolition orders would be issued and carried out immediately.
It added that because the probe and its conclusions directly influence security matters, the state refuses to set a time limit for it. In any case, the prosecution told the court, Derech Ha'avot is not currenlty high on the state's list of priorities because the freeze had created more urgent matters to deal with.
Yariv Oppenheimer, secretary-general of Peace Now, responded to the state's announcement by saying, "During Mitchell's visit the State of Israel's true colors were revealed in its desire to legalize outposts and actively create new settlements."
He said ministers had pressured the prosecution and that "due to rightist ideology the state's laws can be bent and highly illegal structures can be legalized."