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Evacuation of Ulpana would constitute a great injustice, says vice premier (ISRAEL HAYOM) Shlomo Cesana, Gideon Allon and Gadi Golan 05/13/12) Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=4313
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Government ministers, MKs express support for legislation that would avert court-mandated evacuation of Beit El homes • Knesset may vote on retroactive legalization this week • Prime minster to hold meetings aimed at finding solution.
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to hold a series of talks this week aimed at resolving the hot-button issue of the Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El, less than two months before a court-imposed deadline to demolish several of the neighborhood´s buildings expires.
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Over the weekend several ministers said that more legal mechanisms must be considered before the government enforces a High Court of Justice decision to evacuate the disputed homes by July 1. The decision to evacuate stems from the claim that the disputed structures were built on privately owned Palestinian land.
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"This neighborhood in Beit El was built with proper authorization and under the auspices of successive Israeli governments," Vice Prime Minister and Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe (Bogie) Ya´alon (Likud) said over the weekend.
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"We now find ourselves boxed in, because the High Court of Justice made its ruling on the basis of the state´s response (it promised to voluntarily dismantle the neighborhood by May 1). Ultimately, we are facing a dilemma, with the court´s ruling on one side and these people, who are not outlaws or hilltop youth, on the other. If this neighborhood is evacuated or demolished it would be a great injustice to these people, and must be avoided if at all possible," he said.
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The Ulpana controversy began last year, when left-wing groups petitioned the court and challenged the legality of the five three- story apartment buildings on the edge of Beit El, a settlement in the Benjamin region of Judea and Samaria. Netanyahu´s government eventually agreed to remove the structures by May 1, 2012. But as the deadline approached, Netanyahu came under intense pressure from within his own Likud party and from other pro-settler coalition allies to delay the demolition. He subsequently asked the court to reopen the case.
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Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom echoed Ya´alon´s remarks, saying that "under no circumstances should the Ulpana neighborhood´s homes be destroyed. The discourse should revolve around their [retroactive] legalization rather than on demolition. The so-called ´arrangements law´ (which would retroactively legalize the buildings while compensating the original landowners) is the solution and there is no other recourse. This is a dirty trick employed by radical left-wing groups. After all, for years no one made any claims to the disputed land. Let´s be practical. We must devise an arrangement that includes compensation and leaves all the neighborhood´s homes intact."
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Netanyahu convened his top ministers and legal experts for a meeting on Friday to discuss the issue. The meeting was attended by Ya´alon as well as Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein, representatives from the State Prosecutor´s Office, Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz (Kadima), Defense Minister Ehud Barak (Independence), Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, Minister Without Portfolio Ze´ev Binyamin (Benny) Begin (Likud), Education Minister Gideon Sa´ar (Likud) and National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau (Likud). No decision was made and a new meeting is expected this week.
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At a social event on Saturday in Beersheba, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon (Yisrael Beitenu) said that there would not be a forceful evacuation in the near future. "I don´t believe bulldozers will flatten the Ulpana neighborhood. The rule of law is definitely a cherished value but there are other values as well and there is the issue of justice. The government must look at the grand scheme of things and take a common sense approach that looks at what is possible and what is not," he said.
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Meanwhile, the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, together with a couple who lives in Ulpana, petitioned the High Court on Sunday seeking to reverse the evacuation order, Israel Radio reported. The petitioners argued that the original court ruling had constituted a severe violation of justice and an overstepping of legal bounds. They argued further that the land had been purchased in the earnest belief that the transaction was legal, and in the ensuing decade no legal action was initiated against the current residents.
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Some lawmakers on the Right are determined to see the neighborhood legalized. Former settler leader MK Yaakov (Katzeleh) Katz (National Union) and MK Zevulun Orlev (New National Religious Party) plan to submit the arrangement bill for a preliminary Knesset reading on Monday (it would then need three more readings before becoming law). The bill stipulates that any Judea and Samaria community whose property is in dispute would be protected from evacuation, even when a landowner successfully proves ownership over the land, as long as the community is at least four years old. The bill also stipulates that a district court can order compensation - either monetary or alternative property - to be paid to the landowner.
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Orlev made the decision to submit the bill for a vote following reports that Netanyahu was considering allowing ministers to vote their conscience on the issue (rather than imposing party discipline where the party dictates the way all its members vote). Many ministers have expressed support for the measure.
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Another related piece of legislation, sponsored by MK Miri Regev (Likud) would apply Israeli law to Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. According to Israel Radio, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation was set to discuss the bill on Sunday. If passed, any restrictions on construction activity in Judea and Samaria would have to be approved by the Knesset, effectively stripping the Defense Ministry of that authority.
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Weinstein told the ministers during the meeting on Friday that the issue of settlements should not be resolved through legislation, Israel Radio reported.
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