Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday dismissed concerns that his handling of the Ulpana outpost, slated for evacuation at the end of the month, would bring down the governing coalition and confirmed the government would seek a delay in the court-ordered evacuation.

In an interview with Army Radio, Netanyahu said: "The coalition is strong, but this situation needs to be taken care of." He continued, "We are not scared of elections," but said he did not expect to call elections any time soon.

The government decided late Monday night to request a delay from the Supreme Court in the scheduled evacuation of the Ulpana outpost, located by the Beit El settlement. The Supreme Court ordered Ulpana's evacuation by the end of April because it was built on private Palestinian land.

"We will ask the court for a postponement to allow us to deal with it," Netanyahu said.

In a separate interview with Israel Radio, the prime minister emphasized, "We are looking for ways to prevent the destruction of the homes." The government, he added, is working according to the law with considerations of what is best for the state.

Attorney Michael Sfard responded to the decision Wednesday, saying it shows that the government is giving in to political considerations. Sfard, the legal advisor of Yesh Din, filed the petition on behalf of the Palestinian land owners, which resulted in the original commitment to carry out the evacuation.

"The decision to violate the committeemen to court -right at the stage that the injunction was to be implemented- points to the fact that the government has anxiously surrendered to political and coalition considerations, at the expense of principles of law and in cooperation with criminals," Sfard said.

"It is clear that we are dealing with private Palestinian land, and we cannot accept the state's attempt to change its position, when faced with the facts on the ground. Yesh Din will continue to work with others to achieve a more moral state that respects human rights and the rule of law," he added.
  
The ministerial committee also decided to legalize the three West Bank outposts of Rehalim, Bruchin and Sansana.

Regarding Rehalim and Bruchin, which are both in Samaria, and Sansana, located in the southern Hebron Hills, government officials said the decision to formalize their status did not “change the reality on the ground,” and that the move neither represented the establishment of new settlements or the expansion of existing ones.

Rather, the officials said, the move merely gave legal standing to the three communities which, for various technical reasons, had never been granted that status in the past.

The government approved the creation of Bruchin on May 19, 1983, Rehalim on November 27, 1991, and Sansana on June 28, 1998 as legal settlements, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Netanyahu promised to formalize the standing of the three communities, as well as find a solution to the Ulpana outpost without destroying 30 homes there, after the security forces removed Jews who had moved into a home they purchased in Hebron earlier this month.

Officials said the decision to formally authorize the three communities as settlements did not violate a pledge Israel made not to create new settlements, because these communities were created prior to that promise.

Attorney Talia Sasson included Bruchin and Rehalim in her 2005 report on outposts that she penned for the government.

According to Sasson, Bruchin was established in May 1999 on state land, some two kilometers away from the Alei Zahav settlement with NIS 3.3 million from the Construction and Housing Ministry.

She said it was unclear if it had authorization from the government or the Defense Ministry. She did note that according to the civil administration, it had been approved by the government.

Sasson added that it also lacked zoning plans.

According to Sasson’s report, Rehalim was created in 1991, near the Kfar Tapuah settlement, with NIS 980,000 from the Construction and Housing Ministry. She said that it lacked authorization from the government or the Defense Ministry.

It was built partially on state land and partially on land that belonged to private Palestinians, she added.

Herb Keinon and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.

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