Netanyahu defeats bill that would legalize Ulpana outpost (ISRAEL HAYOM) Shlomo Cesana, Mati Tuchfeld and Gideon Alon and Israel Hayom Staff 06/06/12)
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Double victory for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: In landslide
Knesset vote of 69-22 he defeats bill that would have outflanked High
Court; while also receiving the legal go-ahead to move Ulpana homes
within the boundaries of Beit El.
A double victory for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday
afternoon: After receiving the legal go-ahead from Attorney General
Yehuda Weinstein to move the homes of the Ulpana outpost elsewhere in
Beit El, the Knesset voted down the so-called outpost arrangement
bill by a landslide majority of 69 MKs to 22 in a preliminary
reading, removing the proposal from the government´s agenda. The
bill, had it been approved, would have provided compensation to
Palestinian owners of land on which settlements were built, upon
proof of ownership, rather than evacuating settlements.
The bill came in response to a recent High Court ruling ordering the
evacutaion of five buildings in the Ulpana neighborhood of the Beit
El settlement. The court had ruled that the land was privately owned
by a Palestinian and should therefore be restored to the owner. The
bill represented a legislative effort to circumvent the court´s
Hours before the vote and after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
told his cabinet ministers and their deputies on Tuesday that he
would enforce his decision requiring them to vote against the law —
Netanyahu looked to have won legal approval for his compromise
solution to move the five buildings, comprising some 30 apartments,
to another part of the settlement. One of the possibilities floated
is to move the homes to the military base in Beit El, home to the
IDF´s Judea and Samaria Division.
Netanyahu had reportedly looked for, and received, the legal go-ahead
from Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein for a solution allowing for
the evacuated Ulpana homes to be moved or rebuilt within the
boundaries of Beit El, with one possibility to move the homes onto
land that was once used for an army base. It is still unclear whether
Weinstein´s reported approval also extends to Netanyahu´s plan to
change the designation of the land on the military base in Beit El
for civilian use, a plan that might not be legal under international
law. As of press time on Wednesday afternoon, Weinstein´s office has
not issued a formal statement on the matter.
However, in a move meant to mollify right-wing ministers, Netanyahu
announced Wednesday that he will head a new ministerial committee
that would deal with settlement affairs, potentially revoking some of
the authority over settlement matters that are granted almost
exclusively to the defense minister. According to Israel Radio, the
prime minister´s bureau said that Defense Minister Ehud Barak was
aware of the decision to create the committee, which in theory would
bypass his authority. Netanyahu himself will head the committee,
Israel Radio reported.
Meanwhile, the coalition parties have allowed their Knesset members
to vote freely, so that MKs who are not cabinet members can vote as
they see fit.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who is not a member of Netanyahu´s
cabinet but is widely respected as an elder statesman of Likud
politics, also announced Wednesday morning that he would vote in
favor of the bill.
The tension in the Knesset was been palpable ahead of Wednesday´s
plenum debate prior to the vote. The bill´s initiators, MK Yaakov
Katz (National Union) and MK Zevulun Orlev (New National Religious
Party) still believed they could enlist a majority vote for the bill
during the preliminary hearing, despite the prime minister´s
According to speculation, a number of Likud ministers would prefer to
be absent from the plenum during the voting, while others still are
abroad. Coalition chairman MK Zeev Elkin (Likud) will be among those
who vote in favor of the law. Shas Chairman Eli Yishai announced that
his party´s cabinet ministers will be absent for the vote.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beitenu chairman) told
Army Radio Wednesday morning that his party´s ministers and Knesset
members would vote against the law.
"We intend to vote with the government against the outpost
arrangement bill and in favor of the package deal being formed," he
For the time being, the prime minister´s ultimatum was aimed only at
those ministers and deputies who voted in favor of the law, not at
those who abstain or skip the vote.
In a personal message to his cabinet, Netanyahu explained that if it
passed the outpost arrangement Bill would damage Israel in the
international arena, as well as harm the government and its unity.
Members of the Likud party´s nationalist right-wing faction were
outraged by Netanyahu´s decision to oppose the bill, and over the
past 24 hours have significantly increased their pressure on party
ministers to vote in its favor regardless. They bombarded the
ministers with texts and emails and also published their personal
Netanyahu met with Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein on Tuesday and
asked for his opinion on two central points. One issue is the status
of the homes that will be evacuated and rebuilt within the boundaries
of Beit El, on land that was once used for an army base that has
since been removed. The prime minister was interested in hearing if
it was legally possible to build homes where the base used to be and
change the land´s legal designation. Weinstein´s ruling has not been
made public. Yesha Council chairman Danny Dayan told 103 Radio
Wednesday morning that he had asked several MKs to demand to see
Weinstein´s ruling, as Netanyahu´s assertion that Weinstein has
approved the prime minister´s plan "cannot be trusted."
Secondly, Netanyahu asked Weinstein if there is a solution or legal
defense that can prevent similar petitions from being submitted in
the future, so that cases like Ulpana aren´t repeated.
Until now, the attorney-general has said that there is nothing
problematic with the prime minister´s decision to build an additional
300 apartment units in Beit El as a response to the High Court´s
ruling to remove the Ulpana apartment buildings. This means that the
prime minister can move ahead with his plan to relocate the actual
apartment buildings — minus their foundations and cement castings —
to another part of Beit El.
Meanwhile, other last-minute efforts being made to prevent the
evacuation of the Ulpana neighborhood include having the residents of
Ulpana themselves go to High Court and file a petition against the
state to prevent the demolition of their homes. The idea was proposed
on Tuesday and was discussed by Netanyahu, Justice Minister Yaakov
Neeman and Weinstein.
Since it is impossible to petition the High Court over a High Court
ruling, the residents of Ulpana will have to submit their petition
against the state, citing that its decision to follow through with
the ruling and destroy the homes is illegal. The residents are
depending on a recommendation written by Justice Hanan Meltzer when
he was a lawyer in private practice, in which the Jordanian law that
presides over Judea and Samaria states that land owners must be
reimbursed for land which the government took control of.
Netanyahu does not actually want to evacuate the homes, therefore the
petition option was being considered even though it was aimed against
the state, government officials confirmed. According to Jordanian
law, only those who bought the houses with their own money would be
eligible for reimbursement, and not those who were renting their
It is speculated that the legal maneuvers would not prevent the
residents of Ulpana from having to evacuate their homes, but would
potentially delay the destruction of the neighborhood by its court
mandated date of July 1, until further legal proceedings.
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