This post has been corrected. See the note below for details.
JERUSALEM -- Israel's Supreme Court gave the government a two-month reprieve from its order to demolish two unoccupied residential structures in the Bet El settlement that encroach on private Palestinian land.
The government had sought a three-month delay, arguing that it wants to review the matter and possibly formulate a new policy on how it handles the issue of unauthorized construction by Jewish settlers in the West Bank.
The government had previously acknowledged that the structures were illegal and promised to dismantle them by the end of the month.
But amid growing criticism from conservative lawmakers and settlers' groups, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had ordered the government to search for a way to prevent the demolitions of several unauthorized settlements.
Though the international community views all Jewish settlements in the West Bank as illegal, Israel makes a distinction between those it has authorized and those, known as outposts, which settlers have built without government permission.
Representatives of the disputed land's Palestinian owners criticized the government for fighting to save buildings that it previously promised to dismantle.
"To help settlers steal Palestinian land, the government is willing to crush even the most fundamental values upon which Israeli society is built," said attorney Michael Sfard of Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group.
The two buildings are not far from the disputed outpost of Givat Haulpana, which is also near the Bet El settlement and is slated for demolition May 1. The court has not said whether it will grant a similar delay to the evacuation of five buildings in Givat Haulpana, as the government requested last week.
[For the Record, 7:25 a.m. April 30: An earlier version of this post stated that the court's ruling applied to the Givat Haulpana outpost. It does not.]
-- Edmund Sanders