The Israeli government is to retroactively legalise the wildcat settler outpost of Ramat Gilad in the northern West Bank under the terms of a deal reached with its residents, settler officials said.
The outpost, on a hilltop southwest of Nablus, was to have been partly demolished by the end of the year by virtue of an order from Israel's Supreme Court which ordered the removal of outposts built on private Palestinian land.
But under the terms of a deal between the government and the settlers, five homes and a number of storage facilities will reportedly be relocated to a different site within the outpost.
The remainder of the outpost, which was set up in 2001, will then formally be legalised by the government and recognised as an extension of the nearby Karnei Shomron settlement.
Danny Dayan, chairman of the Yesha settlers' council, welcomed the agreement which was reached between the council, residents of Ramat Gilad and the government, saying it would nix any chance of clashes between residents and the army.
"This agreement prevents confrontation and strengthens Ramat Gilad in particular and the settlement enterprise in general," he said in a statement.
Signup to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
Court documents show the outpost is home to some 30 people living in 12 caravans on an area of 41 dunams (10 acres), 43 percent of which is privately owned Palestinian land.
But Hagit Ofran, an activist with Peace Now, said the deal proved the government had capitulated to the whims of hardline settlers.
"The agreement to legalise Ramat Gilad is a sign that the government has surrendered to the settlers, who can now build wherever they want," she told AFP.
"Under their pressure, the government has abandoned all its principles of justice," she said.
Earlier this month, troops demolished a house and an animal pen in the Mitzpe Yitzhar outpost near Nablus which were built on private Palestinian land, sparking a campaign of angry reprisals by settler activists, mostly targeting Palestinians and their property.
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.