Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu angered most of the politicians in his coalition and his Likud party when he threw his support Monday behind the court-mandated demolitions of West Bank settler homes built on private Palestinian property.

In his on-camera comments at the Likud faction meeting Monday, he made his strongest statements to date, which hinted at the withdrawal of isolated settlements.



At the same time he spoke out against the movement within his own party to authorize outposts on land designated by the state as private Palestinian property. But it was his outpost comments that angered many politicians.

In response, Habayit Hayehudi threatened to withdraw from the coalition. The heads of six party factions representing 64 parliamentarians sent him a letter urging him not to destroy the homes.

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Five of the parties, Likud, Israel Beiteinu, Shas, United Torah Judaism and Habayit Hayehudi were from the coalition, and one, the National Union, was from the opposition.

One political source said Netanyahu now understands his coalition is in danger, should he move against settler homes.

At the Likud faction meeting, however, Netanyahu defended his record in support of the settlement movement and asked his party to stand behind him.

“Last week I ordered the acceleration of construction in [Jewish neighborhoods of east] Jerusalem, Ma’aleh Adumim, and other places in Judea and Samaria. We are talking about 2,000 units,” he said. “That is the best way to strengthen settlements that will most certainly remain under Israeli sovereignty in any future agreement [with the Palestinians]. Our efforts must go toward strengthening these settlements.

“We should not be in conflict with the law, and most certainly not with each other,” he continued. “There are enough places that we can, and have, to build in.”

Netanyahu said effort should not be spent battling for unauthorized construction that the state has designed as belonging to private Palestinians.

“We do not need to build on land that belongs to someone else,” he said. “It is possible to be equally faithful to the law as to the land of Israel and the settlements. I expect everyone to unify around these principles.”

Netanyahu’s words came at a moment when a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the creation of a two-state solution seem further away than ever.

The Palestinians have refused to negotiate with Israel and have favored unilateral steps to statehood.

Israel in response has taken a number of punitive measures against the PA.

In spite of that, Netanyahu in the Knesset took a stand that many in his party and coalition believe only weakens the settlement movement and makes a gesture to the Palestinians.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud), a staunch Netanyahu ally, called the removal of settler homes at this time “Kafkaesque.”

Only last month, Likud politicians believed they won a major victory when Netanyahu agreed to form an outpost committee to look at land issues in Judea and Samaria, including the status of land designated as private Palestinian property.

Likud politicians have hoped the creation of the committee would then stave off any pending court-mandated demolitions.

The issue is particularly pertinent because a number of outposts, including Migron, Givat Assaf and Amona, are under threat of courtordered demolitions within the coming months.

The state on Tuesday is expected to update the High Court of Justice on its plans to take down Givat Asaf in December. On Sunday, it is expected to present a time-table for the demolition of Amona. The time-table for the demolition of Migron has been set for March.

Right-wing politicians and settlers believe that much of the land, designated as belonging to private Palestinians on which settler homes are built, can be legally reclassified as state land.

Palestinians can be compensated in cases where that is not possible, they argued.

Such re-classification, the politicians believe, would save the outposts and homes from destruction and take a step toward transforming them into legal settlements.

Even those politicians who in the past believed that outposts on land designated by the state as private Palestinian property should be removed, have argued against it.

They argued that this is not the diplomatic climate in which to be taking down outposts, given the enmity that now exists between Israel and the Palestinians.

But as of Monday the committee had not been formed, and the state is pressing ahead with plans to demolish the settler homes.

In the last weeks, politicians have watched with dismay as the mandate of the committee has been narrowed to the point where it is almost guaranteed to be an ineffective body.

In a letter written to Netanyahu on Monday the faction heads asked that the committee be composed of people with a legal background that would be authorized to deal with all the issues on the table.

Settlers have mounted a stiff campaign to combat the demolitions, including utilizing signs, the Internet and political lobbying.

On Monday, as Netanyahu spoke inside the Knesset, a small group of settlers rallied outside.

They held up signs stating “Settlers are people too.” And they threw large yellow balls in the air, to symbolize the fact that “the ball” was in the Knesset’s court.



MK Arye Eldad (National Union) threatened stiff resistance should the political battle fail and the army move against the homes.

The reaction, he said, would be worse than the clashes that erupted between settlers and the IDF when former prime minister Ehud Olmert destroyed nine homes at the Amona outpost in 2006.

It will make the government “long for Amona I,” Eldad said.

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