Israel began the evacuation of settlers from the West Bank outpost of Ulpana Tuesday, bringing a sense of finality to the Supreme Court's ruling that the settlement was built illegally on private Palestinian land and had to be dismantled.
Government employees in neon-yellow vests arrived with moving trucks to assist half of the outpost's 33 families in packing up their belongings and relocating to temporary housing set up on a military base. The remaining families are expected to be relocated within the week.
While the evacuation of Ulpana represents a small concession from Israel in the endless debate over settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem -- land which Palestinians envision as part of a future state -- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has authorized the construction of some 850 apartment units in other settlements, clearly demonstrating a refusal to halt expansion into the region.
Three hundred of those apartments are slated to be built in the West Bank settlement of Beit El, which had a population of around 5,600 in 2009 and which Ulpana was an extension of. The other 500 apartments will be built among Israel's 121 government-sanctioned settlements on territory claimed by Palestinians.
More than 300,000 Israeli settlers are estimated to be living in the West Bank and around 200,000 in East Jerusalem alone. All settlements of an occupying power's civilians in conquered territory are considered illegal under international law.
Continued Israeli expansion into the West Bank and East Jerusalem has been among the factors frustrating efforts to negotiate the establishment of a Palestinian state and leading to the breakdown of peace talks.
Both Palestinian authorities and the U.S. as chief third-party negotiator view the two-state solution as the only option to resolve the decades-long conflict between the two sides.
Palestinian authorities have refused to return to the negotiating table until meaningful efforts to halt settlement expansion are taken, a concession that Netanyahu's administration is not willing to make.
Israel has occupied the entire West Bank since seizing the territory from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War, and has annexed a large area around East Jerusalem. Jordan had occupied the territory, part of the former Palestine Mandate, since the 1948-49 Arab-Israeli War that followed the establishment of the State of Israel.