The “outpost bill” was voted down in a landslide on Wednesday, while ministers who had committed to defy Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s position were absent.
The legislation submitted by MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi), was rejected in a preliminary vote by 69 MKs while 22 voted in favor. It would have legalized the Ulpana outpost, which is expected to be razed at the end of the month, as well as several others that were built on private Palestinian land.
A similar bill submitted by National Union chairman Ya’acov Katz will be brought to a vote next week, but the outcome is expected to be the same.
Several ministers and deputy ministers who said they would rather be fired from the government than vote against the measure were absent from the plenum, including Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi) – who had said his party would leave the coalition over the legislation – Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud), Transportation Minister Israel Katz (Likud) and Likud Deputy Ministers Ayoub Kara, Gila Gamliel and Leah Ness.
Some other notable absences included Vice Premier Silvan Shalom (Likud), Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beytenu), Shas and United Torah Judaism ministers and deputy ministers and MK Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi), who was sick, as well as Kadima MKs Otniel Schneller and Yulia Shamolov Berkovich.
Several Likud ministers who spoke out in favor of the legislation voted against it, including Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat.
The 22 MKs who voted in favor of the bill were Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin, Ofir Akunis, Danny Danon, Tzipi Hotovely, Haim Katz, Yariv Levin, Tziyon Pinyan and Miri Regev from the Likud, all Shas MKs that are not ministers, MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beytenu) and MK Yisrael Eichler (UTJ), as well as Orlev and all four National Union MKs.
UTJ MKs Moshe Gafni and Uri Maklev said they voted against the legislation because halachic decider Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman told them that according to Jewish law, a person cannot be forced to sell his field.
Right-wing MKs slammed those who were absent or voted against the bill.
MK Arieh Eldad (National Union) said that the Likud has been “exposed again. They claim to support settlement, but destroy it at its roots.
“Likud ministers were revealed to be cowards who prefer to run away or give into the prime minister’s threats to fire them over standing up for their beliefs,” Eldad said.
“Voting down the bill is a clear failure of the prime minister, who acts against settlements according to the demands of the most extreme leftists who care nothing about justice,” MK Uri Ariel (National Union) said.
Danon said the vote showed that Israel was paying for adding Kadima to the coalition.
“The People of Israel chose Likud, the nationalist path, and not [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak and not to evacuate settlements,” he said. “Peace Now and the extreme Left promote their agenda in the courts, instead of convincing the public at the polls.”
Orlev presented his bill to the plenum, pointing out that exactly eight years ago, thenprime minister Ariel Sharon decided to disengage from Gaza and that people were still suffering from this. He accused the government of following in Sharon’s path.
According to Orlev, the government is falsely claiming that his bill would be problematic under international law, and the Palestinians have no standing in the International Criminal Court in The Hague because they are not a country.
“Are you really so worried about Palestinian real estate?” he quipped. “How long can we hide behind questions of property law?” The real issue is the government’s settlement policies, whether it is a freeze and demolition or development and expansion, Orlev said. “The government now plans to expand Beit El only because of the Ulpana’s demolition.
“What stopped you until now?” Orlev asked ministers.
“Will building in Judea and Samaria only come as a punishment for Peace Now?” The Habayit Hayehudi MK demanded that his party leave the coalition if the government demolishes the Ulpana outpost.
Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin (Likud) responded to Orlev, saying that the Jewish People’s right to the Land of Israel is natural and eternal, and the government supports expanding settlements, though the expansion is complicated and sometimes limited.
According to Begin, Orlev’s bill is based on mistakes. First, that it seeks to change a High Court of Justice ruling – to destroy the Ulpana outpost by July 1 – making it a retroactive bill. Second, the bill is a property law that would apply to Arabs living in the West Bank.
Third, it would harm settlements, and fourth, the Ulpana case is not a precedent that can be used in challenges against other outposts.
“On a personal note, I have been under an SMS attack, with some saying ‘support the bill and continue the legacy of your father [former prime minister Menachem Begin]’ and others saying ‘support the bill and do not continue in your father’s path,’” Begin said.
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) said Orlev was using settlers for his own cynical, political purposes.
He pointed out that Orlev was comparing the Ulpana demolition to 2005’s disengagement, even though Orlev remained in the government that pulled out of Gaza, while several of today’s Likud ministers rebelled against Sharon, including Erdan.
“Whoever compares what is happening today in Beit El, with a legal dispute and one in the government on how to strengthen settlements, to a unilateral uprooting of towns that were not in dispute and undoubtedly weakened settlements, is using these people for political reasons,” Erdan said.
The minister explained that the government did not think Orlev’s bill could save the Ulpana outpost.
“The government will continue to do all it can to strengthen settlements and leave the homes [intact], but we must also be aware of the dangers,” Erdan said.