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Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Opposition grows within the coalition to Netanyahu plan to expel Jews from Ulpana

Eli Yishai (Shas). Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu). Yisrael Katz (Likud). Reuven Rivlin (Likud). Tzipi Hotovely (Likud). Otniel Schneller (Kadima). Yulia Shamalov-Berkovich (Kadima). All of these MK's - members of the coalition - have come out and announced that they will vote in favor of a bill that would circumvent the Supreme Court ruling that requires the government to destroy the Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El by July 1 (and Amona and Givat Assaf by August 1), and to expel the Jews currently living therein from their homes. If coalition discipline is invoked, Yishai, Lieberman and Katz could yet change their votes to preserve their seats in the government. But whether or not that happens it is not yet clear that Prime Minister Netanyahu, who opposes the bill, has the votes in the bag.
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.

Despite reports that Weinstein told the prime minister there would be legal problems with such a plan, Netanyahu said the attorney-general would defend his plan in court.

"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.”


"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.”

The prime minister said his solution is possible “practically, economically and legally.”


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.


Mofaz said he understood the pain of the settlers but 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, Yisrael Beyteinu 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. 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.
YNet adds:
Yishai said in the Shas faction meeting that "after meeting with Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the Shas faction has decided to support the law."

Lieberman said earlier Monday at a conference in Eilat that "we think that it is better to find a solution and not create a crisis. But if we can't find any reasonable arrangement, we will vote in favor of the settlement regulation bill. I support the prime minister's position that if a home in the West Bank is evacuated, 10 other homes will be built to strengthen the message that settlement in the West Bank can't be stopped by such tricks."

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin also supports the settlement regulation bill. "This is a matter of conscience of the top priority," Rivlin said at a meeting of the Knesset leadership. The speaker also announced that the bill would be brought before the Knesset plenum for a vote on Wednesday.


MK Tzipi Hotovely told her fellow Likud members "this is not a battle over five homes; it is a battle against the delegitimization of the settlement enterprise. Likud was burnt by the uprooting (of Jewish settlements) in Gush Katif."
What could go wrong?

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