MK Ya’acov Katz (National Union) pulled his bill meant to legalize unauthorized
Jewish West Bank homes on Wednesday after already presenting it to the plenum,
citing a request from his rabbi, who had been pressured by the Likud – seconds
before the vote was meant to take place.
Everyone from Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu to Katz’s closest aides were baffled by the move, unaware of
what the National Union leader was planning.
Katz announced in the plenum
that he would postpone the vote for two weeks after already presenting the bill,
hearing Minister-without- Portfolio Bennie Begin’s response and delivering a
The two-week postponement makes the legislation less likely to
pass all of the readings and committees necessary to become law before July 1,
when the High Court of Justice has ordered the state to demolish five apartment
buildings in the Ulpana outpost on the outskirts of the Beit El
The state has also promised the court it will take down the
Mitzpe Assaf outpost, home to 25 families by that same date.
outpost, which is home to 50 families, is under a High Court order to be
evacuated by August 1.
All three outposts were built without the proper
permits on land classified by the state as private Palestinian
Katz hopes his bill would save these outposts. It would also
authorize Jewish West Bank homes in outposts and settlements built with initial
nods of approval from governmental bodies, either through documentation or
funding. In cases where the land is owned by Palestinians, the legislation calls
for the government to compensate those owners.
Meanwhile, with the vote
delayed, coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) committed to freezing all
preparations to raze the Ulpana outpost, and said the government would try to
find a non-legislative solution. If those efforts are not successful over the
next two weeks, coalition members will be given the freedom to vote according to
In fact, Elkin wrote in a letter to Beit El Local Council
chairman Moshe Rosenbaum Wednesday afternoon, if the government does not find a
solution within in two weeks, Netanyahu has not ruled out legislation.
Tuesday, Netanyahu met separately with Katz and MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit
Hayehudi), who submitted a similar proposal, to convince them to shelve the
bills, and Orlev acquiesced.
However, as Wednesday’s plenum meeting
began, both bills were on the agenda, and rumors flew in the hallways of the
Knesset about the coalition discipline being canceled.
Ehud Barak spoke out against the legislation, saying the solution is to follow
the High Court’s orders while strengthening Beit El, “a big and important town
that will remain a part of Israel in any future
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said he would vote in
favor of the bill, and called for Netanyahu to allow all ministers to vote in
the plenum according to their conscience.
“Destroying homes in the Ulpana
neighborhood will lead to the demolition of thousands of additional homes in
Judea and Samaria, a decree that the public cannot withstand,” he
Yet, as the day wore on, it became apparent that no ministers would
vote in favor of the bill, because that would require them to quit their office
and leave the government.
Orlev delayed his bill for two weeks, and Elkin
asserted coalition discipline, adding that he is sure a solution will be found
in time and no ministers or deputy ministers will be fired.
Union’s Katz, however, insisted he would bring his legislation to a vote,
leading many to ask why he would do so when it had no chance of getting a
One Likud MK said angrily that the National Union was trying to
prove they are the only party loyal to the State of Israel.
Ulpana outpost residents flocked to the Knesset, calling for action and saying
Netanyahu’s promises are not enough.
They sat in the plenum’s mezzanine,
cautiously hopeful about the bill’s chances.
“If Katz says [the bill]
should go all the way, then it’s time,” Ulpana resident Yoel Fattal said. “There
is a limit to how long it can be delayed. We are here, on the front lines,
saying [the demolition] cannot happen.”
As Katz began presenting his
bill, the Likud benches were empty, as were Yisrael Beytenu’s, though party
chairman Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has spoken out repeatedly in favor of
legislation to legalize outposts.
“Netanyahu asked me to wait two weeks
so the problem can be solved,” Katz explained. “But he did not promise that in
two weeks the bill will pass.”
The National Union leader appealed to
Likud MKs and ministers who spoke in favor of legalizing outposts, saying that
“if you kick a Jew out of his home, your heart is made out of stone.”
don’t care if you vote down the bill, but the people of Israel will see, like
[Likud ideological forbearer Ze’ev] Jabotinsky said to the Jews in Warsaw: ‘If
God forbid there is destruction, know that there was one Jew who shouted
‘enough!’’” Katz said, his voice trembling with emotion.
that the government is working on an appropriate solution within the framework
of the High Court’s ruling.
“I do not think heart is unimportant, but
sometimes, in addition to our hearts, ministers must use their brains and be
levelheaded with a broader and deeper understanding of the repercussions,” he
explained. “This law will do more harm than good.”
Begin also pointed out
that over 350,000 Jews live legally in Judea and Samaria, saying that he and all
those who are like-minded want “an increase of Jews in the land of Israel, but
we want their roots to be planted on strong foundations.”
Katz took the
stage again, saying that people close to the prime minister called his rabbi,
Eliezer Melamed of Beit El, telling him to pull the bill.
“I didn’t tell
you what to do,” Netanyahu interrupted.
“My rabbi said in tears that
although there is a great value to voting on the bill, so this can be seen and
heard, I must remove the legislation,” Katz continued.
That marked the
end of the outpost bill for the next two weeks.
Sources close to the
negotiations say that Netanyahu has not promised anything to Orlev and Katz
other than to try to find a solution, but the government may consider building a
number of new homes in Beit El in exchange for razing the Ulpana
Meanwhile, National Union is planning protests over the next two
weeks, in hopes of convincing the government to support outpost legalization.