Is the defense minister looking to reach a compromise with settlers in Beit El's Ulpana neighborhood? Ehud Barak
said in Sunday's cabinet meeting, "We have found 22 dunam in Beit El which can under certain circumstances, if and when planning is completed, serve as a spot where alternative structures can be built, if the need arises."
He added, "If eventually, the land (at the Ulpana neighborhood)
turns out to be privately-owned, we will have no choice but to evict or purchase it. There's no other way."
The Ulpana neighborhood spokesman said in response, "We are not Ehud Barak's pawns. As prime minister he placed us here, now as defense minister he has decided to move us. Thankfully, he is defense minister and not prime minister."
Earlier on Sunday, it was reported that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein is exploring legal options in an effort to prevent an eviction. However, senior legal sources estimated that the State Prosecutor's Office will have a hard time finding a solution, as "the State has pledged to evict the neighborhood in the past, on the basis that it is built on private land." They noted that "the High Court of Justice served a ruling based on this pledge."
The defense minister said that the government is still waiting for matters to become clearer. "This is not about a ruling but a pledge made by the government last year, that neighborhoods and buildings on private land be evicted."
Barak stressed that "any 21st Century democratic government concerned about its future cannot act differently." He noted that the Ulpana neighborhood has existed since his days as prime minister 12 years ago.
The Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El
According to a High Court ruling, the State is required to evict the Ulpana neighborhood by May 1 after it was established it was created on private Palestinian land.
Senior defense sources said Saturday that "the defense establishment's position on the matter has not changed and neither has reality on the ground.
Barak hinted that should legitimate purchase documents surface and be approved by the court, the defense establishment may change its view. "We have nothing against Beit El fundamentally. It's a well-established, big and very important community."
He added, "Eventually, we are responsible for the rule of law, for Israel functioning as a normative state being ranked side by side with the world's leading countries. That said, we are also responsible of finding a way to solve the matter and I hope this happens. There is no point in creating uproar over it."
On Sunday evening, many Likud ministers and MKs are slated to show their support for the Ulpana residents.
Aviad Glickman contributed to this report