Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
decided over the weekend to evacuate Beit El's Ulpana neighborhood
and not endorse a bill
circumventing the High Court of Justice.
Netanyahu is proposing to move the houses to a military zone inside Beit El, instead of demolishing them. Each house that will be evacuated will see 10 new buildings being constructed in the West Bank, in accordance with the Attorney General's stance.
"What will strengthen the settlement is settlement construction. For each demolished house, we'll build 10 new ones," Netanyahu said. He stressed that a bill legalizing the structures can expose the entire West Bank settlement enterprise to international criticism.
Dan Meridor and several other ministers have recently stressed that the government is bound the High Court's ruling. However, Netanyahu remarked that if a solution cannot be found to similar cases in the future, there will be no other choice but to go ahead with the bill.
Beit El's Ulpana neighborhood (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
The bill stipulates if a West Bank landowner has failed to contest Jewish construction on his property in court for four years since building began, the built structures would not be evacuated.
One of the neighborhood's residents said last week that moving the houses to another location was "out of the question."
Also last week, it was reported that the Civil Administration is considering allocating a military zone to the construction of a new neighborhood instead of Ulpana. The residents said in response they block the demolition with their bodies.
Aerial view of Ulpana neighborhood (Photo: Lowshot.com)
MK Arieh Eldad (National Union) slammed the decision. "Netanyahu's behavior is befitting the 'liar' label that was given to him by his partner, (Minister Shaul) Mofaz," Eldad said. "Only legislation can prevent destruction.
"He is displacing Migron and Ulpana," he added. "All that's left for Netanyahu to do in order to achieve world peace is to shift Jerusalem to New York."
Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On said that while she welcomes Netanyahu's announced intention to evacuate Ulpana, his "promise" to build more homes in the West Bank "deals a death blow" to the peace process.
Gal-On added that the announcement rewards "law-breaking" settlers and encourages them to commit further violations.
Peace Now Director General Yariv Oppenheimer voiced similiar sentiments. Oppenheimer expressed contentment with the decision, but asserted that the decision to expand settlement construction is detrimental to Israel's interests.
"Netanyahu's decision to implement the High Court's ruling is in line with the founding principles of democracy, and should be obvious," he said. "His decision to apply a price tag and expand the settlements will hurt the State of Israel first and foremost, and will reward law-breaking settlers."
Harbi Hassan, one of the Palestinians who own the land on which the Ulpana neighborhood was built welcomed Netanyahu's decision. "This proves the State of Israel's level of democracy," he told Ynet.
Hassan, one of the petitioners to the High Court, told Ynet he was surprised by the decision having felt that Netanyahu and Barak had tried every legal trick to avoid an evacuation.
"I am very pleased with Netanyahu's decision," he said. Hassan said he was not afraid of any rightist backlash. "We are a strong people and we carry out our struggle only through legal means. Since the land is within Area C, we expect the army and the government to protect us in all the areas that Israel controls. Only the government can protect the Palestinians."
Last month, the High Court of Justice denied the State's motion for a deferral of the evacuation of five structures built on private Palestinian lad and gave it a July 1 deadline for their demolition.
Rightist MKs in response proposed a bill meant to prevent the evacuation but the prime minister convinced them to withdraw
it and allow him to find another solution.