Discord over West Bank outpost threatening Netanyahu coalition (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By Yossi Verter 04/22/12)
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The future of the little Ulpana neighborhood of the West Bank
settlement of Beit El, whose legality is in doubt, seems to be
driving the government to distraction. Aides to Defense Minister Ehud
Barak Saturday released a statement accusing two of their boss´s
cabinet colleagues, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and Vice
Prime Minister Moshe Ya´alon of adopting the rhetoric of the extreme
Katz visited Ulpana on Friday and said Barak had "taken the Defense
Ministry and made it a political tool at the expense of the settlers."
On Saturday, Ya´alon half warned, half threatened that the government
could fall if Ulpana´s residents were forced to leave. In response
aides to Barak, who is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu´s closest
confidant, said Katz and Ya´alon had been struck with "a serious case
of Feiglinism," referring to the extreme right-wing Likudnik Moshe
These are not trivial matters. When Ya´alon, speaking at a cultural
event in Be´er Sheva Saturday, suggested the government was in danger
of collapse he seemed resigned to the prospect. His statements
probably added fuel to the fire of the settlers.
Ya´alon, who is also Strategic Affairs Minister, criticized Barak
over his move to evacuate settlers from a house in a Palestinian
neighborhood of Hebron earlier this month. "They were prepared to
evacuate. There was no need to send in the counterterrorism unit of
the police," Ya´alon said, adding, "The defense minister insisted on
sending them in, and afterward we heard his people saying, ´Now the
left camp will understand who its leader is.´" Ya´alon went on to say
that Barak was motivated by political considerations and that his
interests diverged from those of the coalition.
But Ya´alon is neither a pundit nor one of the back-bench Likud
lawmakers (and even they would not dare to express themselves the way
he did ). One would expect a politician of his stature and position
to stand by the prime minister, exuding calm, self-confidence,
stability and determination. Who is Ya´alon actually threatening?
Netanyahu? Netanyahu´s wife, Sara? Himself?
Barak´s response - couched as a statement issued by "officials in the
defense minister´s inner circle" - signaled what is in store. If he
has resolved to launch a frontal assault against Katz, one of the
strongest ministers in the Likud Central Committee, it indicates that
he has relinquished, for all intents and purposes, any hope of a
reserved spot on the Likud candidate list for the next election.
In any event that was a highly unlikely scenario: Barak is preparing
to run at the head of the Atzmaut party - after him, the deluge. The
inter-party quarreling over the illegal outposts in the West Bank
will be his main ticket to the election, after which he would be
happy to continue to serve as defense minister in a third Netanyahu
government, should this happen.
The weekend to-and-fro is apparently only the teaser for the meeting
this morning of the Likud ministers, who will compete among
themselves for the title of most vitriolic toward Barak (as though
Netanyahu were not in charge ), and the cabinet meeting that will
follow. Above all, they are the trailer for the show of support
planned by Likud MKs and ministers in the Ulpana neighborhood itself.
Never mind the MKs whose lives are not worth living without such
gimmicks. But what do the ministers of the ruling party seek in a
place that the High Court of Justice has said must be evacuated and
destroyed? They are not differentiating between reasoned and rational
support for the continued existence of the neighborhood and a wild
race to show the settlers who is their strongest supporter in Likud.
The Knesset´s summer session begins in eight days and electioneering
is in the air. It is hard to see Netanyahu holding his coalition
together as a sane and functioning parliamentary body until the
session ends in July.
The settlements, Ulpana and Migron; an alternative to the Tal Law
exempting most yeshiva students from military service, which expires
in July and the major difficulty the government has in passing a
reduction-heavy budget - these are all very high hurdles, almost too
high, for a government in its fourth year. (© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz
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