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PM to clash with Right over Ulpana outpost (JERUSALEM POST) By GIL HOFFMAN, LAHAV HARKOV 06/04/12)Source: http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=272637 JERUSALEM POST JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu set himself up for a battle with right-wing parties in his coalition and ministers in his own Likud party Monday when he announced his opposition to the outpost bill that will come to a vote in the Knesset on Wednesday.

Netanyahu had indicated earlier that he might vote in favor of the bill if attorney-general Yehuda Weinstein would not approve a compromise allowing the five buildings of the controversial Ulpana outpost to be moved within the settlement Beit El. But after Weinstein told him there would be legal problems with such a plan, the prime minister came out firmly against the bill.

"We are a government that abides by the rule of law and strengthens settlement,” Netanyahu told the Likud faction. “There is no contradiction between the two. Even if the Court´s decision is tough for some people, we must respect it.”

Netanyahu, who met with residents of the outpost on Monday, called them “salt of the earth.” But he warned that outpost bill would harm the settlers instead of helping them.

"The bill could be disqualified by the Court and cause problems internationally, which would result in the outpost being evacuated and damage to the entire settlement enterprise,” Netanyahu said. “We are bringing solutions that strengthen settlement. The alternative of passing this legislation would harm settlement.”

Netanyahu received support for his stance from his Likud colleagues, Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon and Education Minister Gideon Sa´ar, who announced today that they would oppose the bill.

But Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said he would back the bill and Transport Minister Israel Katz said he would leave early from Europe to vote in favor. MK Tzipi Hotovely asked Netanyahu to enable ministers to vote their conscience on the issue rather than enforce coalition discipline.

“The law must be just, and an injustice should not be fixed by another injustice,” Rivlin said.

The Knesset Speaker predicted a lively, intense debate on the legislation in the plenum, adding that he and his deputies will adhere strictly to protocol and not let emotions take over.

Inside Netanyahu´s coalition, the leaders of Shas and Yisrael Beytenu announced their support for the bill but would not reveal whether they would be willing to be fired from the government over the issue. They expressed hope that an alternative solution could still be found. Kadima and Independence expressed strong opposition to the bill.

"Beit El is a very important settlement of thousands of people who were sent there by the government and it will be part of Israel forever alongside a contiguous Palestinian state,” Barak said. “The Ulpana problem must be solved wisely. Israel does not live in empty space. Nothing will harm residents of Judea and Samaria more than an attempt to legislate such retroactive bills that will lead us to a blatant confrontation with the international community.”

Mofaz said he understood the pain of the settlers but that the law must be kept. He added that “the bill would harm the Jews in Judea and Samaria, who are overwhelmingly there legally.”

But Kadima MKs Otniel Schneller and Yulia Shamalov-Berkovich said they would vote in favor of the bill. Whether the bill will pass could be determined by the votes of Likud, Israel Beiteinu and Shas ministers, which will not be decided until Netanyahu rules on whether coalition discipline will be enforced.

Netanyahu held a late-night meeting with Weinstein about the Ulpana Sunday night. Weinstein reportedly told the prime minister that while many of the structures can physically be relocated, it is unclear whether he can endorse moving the structures to an area currently under the IDF´s jurisdiction but considered disputed territory under international law.

Weinstein expressed concern about using areas which have been taken over by the military on grounds of temporary security needs for civilian purposes. The concern is based on a famous case decided by the High Court in 1979 regarding the Elon Moreh settlement in which the court held that disputed lands being used by the military can only be used by civilians if the use will specifically serve a security purpose.

In that case, the judges explicitly questioned the viability of saying that an area was needed only temporarily for security purposes with the picture of building permanent settlements.

On a separate and brighter point for the prime minister, Weinstein´s initial position on the issue of avoiding a legal precedent appeared to be more what Netanyahu was hoping for.

Preliminary conclusions from the meeting were that the Ulpana court ruling would not constitute binding legal precedent compelling the government to remove future settlements as it was issued with the government´s consent, and not as a unilateral court order. Lahav Harkov and Yonah Bob contributed to this report (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 06/04/12)

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