Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday convinced rogue ministers Yuli Edelstein and Daniel Herschkowitz not to vote for outpost bills that would legalize the Ulpana outpost, thus allowing them to keep their cabinet positions.
Both ministers absented themselves from the vote, saying they were persuaded by Netanyahu's arguments that the bill had no chance of passing anyway, and that he promised that he would actively support settlements within Israel's legal framework.
"We decided not to jump head first into an empty pool," said Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz in a statement, adding "we will not play into Peace Now's hands, and will continue to
struggle for the settlements from the place where the decisions are made."
On his Facebook page, Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein wrote, "I decided not to support the legislation, but rather to achieve its goals by my actions as part of the executive branch."
Specifically, he cited promises from Netanyahu to issue tenders for housing units in settlement communities, bolster the Beit El settlement with 300 additional units, and establish a ministerial committee for encouraging settlements.
The far Right's inner-struggle over the issue was in full display earlier on Wednesday during a press conference over the two bills to retroactively authorize the West Bank outpost of Ulpana.
Pro-settlement ministers were torn between supporting Netanyahu's coalition and voting their conscience by supporting the bills, a move Netanyahu promised would get them fired. Coalition party Yisrael Beytenu said it would not support the bills, and Shas will sit out the vote, a move that de facto withdraws its support.
National Union MK Ya'acov Katz, who sponsored one of the bills, called out Likud Minister Yuli Edelstein and MKs Gila Gamliel and Ayoub Kara by name in the meeting, urging them to support the bill. He also said the public should not have faith in Netanyahu: "He commits crimes against his people," Katz said.
Coalition Chairman Ze'ev Elkin (Likud) urged everyone to vote according to their conscience. "There are times when even if you know it won't pass, you have to act according to your conscience and be able to go to people and say you did everything possible for them," said Elkin.
Facing the reality that the bills will most likely fail, Likud MK Danny Danon condemned the coalition with Kadima as an "unkosher wedding."
"We will lose the battle but win in the long run," he added hopefully.
Drawing historical parallels, National Union MK Michael Ben-Ari said the Ulpana saga gave him "deja vu" regarding the 2005 Gaza disengagement. "Only the Likud could destroy Yamit," he said, recalling the Sinai settlement destroyed by a right-wing government as part of the peace deal with Egypt. "Likud is a Trojan horse," he said.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.