Further to my post from Monday explaining the background to the Givat HaUlpana problem, the bad news for the right-wing camp is that today’s Knesset vote on the bill to retroactively legalize Givat HaUlpana was defeated.
The Knesset, in a raucous session, rejected on Wednesday a controversial bill that would have regularized unapproved settlements and saved five buildings in the Givat Ulpana outpost from demolition.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had opposed the bill and instead proposed an alternative plan to build additional housing units in Beit El proper in exchange for the five buildings slated to be removed.
The bill was defeated with 69 opposed and 22 in favor, with 29 abstentions. After the results were announced, thousands of right-wing demonstrators, most of them minors, took to the streets outside the Knesset in protest, leading to two arrests.
The buildings in Givat Ulpana are slated for destruction on July 1 by order of the High Court, after it was determined they were built on private Palestinian land.
Mk Zevulun Orlev (Jewish Home) said in his arguments for the bill that the issue was broader than the five Ulpana buildings. He noted that the date, June 6, was the same date the Sharon government decided to clear out Gaza’s Gush Katif settlements.
“Do you really think this is about five buildings? If the prime minister wants to build more buildings in Beit El, why does it need to be linked to the buildings in Givat Ulpana?” Orlev asked. “Is this how we build a state?”
Orlev reiterated his intention to leave the coalition government given the bill’s failure to pass, along with 11 other Religious Zionist members of Netanyahu’s government.
Despite earlier statements that they would support the bill, MKs Gila Gamliel (Likud), Ayoub Kara (Likud) and Daniel Hershkowitz (Jewish Home) all abstained. All three hold ministerial positions, and Netanyahu had threatened to remove from their posts any ministers who voted for the bill.
Eight Likud MKs defied the prime minister’s instructions and voted in support of the bill: Carmel Shama-HaCohen, Ofir Akunis, Zeev Elkin, Danny Danon, Tzipi Hotovely, Chaim Katz, Yariv Levin and Miri Regev.
Ynet’s current (Hebrew) front-page headline reads “הבטחתי ולכן לא אקיים: תירוצי השרים שהתקפלו” – “I promised and therefore I will abrogate: all the excuses of the Ministers who capitulated”. Yuli Edelstein says he was convinced by Netanyahu’s promise to build more housing in the settlements, while MK Ayoub Kara was persuaded by Netanyahu’s proposal to set up a ministerial committee about settlement building, removing the responsibility from Defence Minsiter Ehud Barak who is regarded as averse to the settlement enterprise.
The Jerusalem Post notes that:
Also noteworthy was that most of Yisrael Beytenu voted against the bill, although some Yisrael Beytenu MKs, such as Minister of Infrastructure Uzi LandaU absented themselves from the vote.
Some commentators had predicted that the party would absent itself from the vote entirely.
Shas leaders absented themselves from the vote, as predicted by many commentators.
One or two small spots of light are that, contrary to concerns earlier in the week, the Attorney General has approved Netanyahu’s Bet El expansion propsal (in the same JPost link):
He spoke after Netanyahu received support from Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein for his plan to relocate five apartment buildings from the Ulpana outpost to an authorized tract of land in the Beit El settlements. Weinstein also approved the legality of a plan to further develop the Beit El settlement, by possibly constructing as many as 300 new units, according to officials.
According to the prime minister’s office, Weinstein also assured Netanyahu that his office had a legal argument, which could prevent the success of further petitions. Katz estimated that there are some 9,000 unauthorized West Bank Jewish homes.
Weinstein’s plan, however, leave’s intact an essential principle of Netanyahu’s policy with regard to the settlements, that unauthorized homes on private Palestinian property, such as Ulpana, must be removed.
Netanyahu also agreed to create a ministerial settlement committee, which has the authority to authorize West Bank construction.
This last item is a very important decision, and it is high time it is enacted and executed. Ehud Barak has been acting like a high-handed dictator on everything concerning building in settlements, even within their municipal boundaries, and even such uncontroversial buildings such as schools and synagogues.
Yisrael Hayom reports on further legal actions being resorted to by the settlers:
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 homes.
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.
Yisrael Hayom also has a provocative article by Uri Heitner who asks “What is the right protesting about?”. I don’t agree with all that he writes, and I strongly disagree with a lot of it, but he does make some valid points too.
Read it for yourselves and let me know in the comments what you think – about Heitner’s article and the whole Givat HaUlpana issue.