Four leading rabbis from the national-religious community met on Monday with
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, calling on him to facilitate freedom of
conscience for government ministers in a Knesset plenum vote on proposed
legislation – which, if passed, would legalize unauthorized settlement outposts
across the West Bank.
Rivlin said in response, however, that the
government would not be able to directly support the bills because of the
“complex” nature of the issue. He nevertheless expressed strong support for a
compromise solution in light of the fact that the residents believed the
neighborhood to be legal when they moved in.
The bills are being brought
forward now because of the High Court of Justice ruling earlier this month
ordering the state to demolish 30 homes in the Ulpana neighborhood of the Beit
El settlement, which were constructed without the proper permits on land
classified by the state as private Palestinian property.
appealed to Rivlin to press Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to allow
government ministers to vote according to their conscience, and not subject to
coalition discipline – as it is thought more likely that the bill will pass if
the 30 ministers in the current government were able to vote freely.
impression I get from my conversations with the prime minister is that he
understands the need for a creative type of solution in order to prevent the
destruction of the neighborhood,” Rivlin told the rabbis. “The residents went to
live in this place under the impression that it was legal and within a permitted
framework, and they were sent by the government of Israel.”
“It’s not possible to rectify an injustice with another injustice. We need to
adjust the law to be just.”
Present at the meeting with Rivlin were
Rabbis Haim Druckman, Zalman Melamed, Tzfania Drori and Haim Steiner, along with
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, Regional Development Minister Silvan
Shalom, MK Ya’acov Katz (National Union) – who initiated the meeting – and
several other politicians.
The legislation, proposed by Habayit Hayehudi
MK Zevulun Orlev and the National Union MK, would transform dozens of
unauthorized hilltop communities into new legal settlements under Israeli
The rabbis argued that it is unthinkable that “a quarter of the
Knesset cannot vote according to their conscience.”
“What kind of Knesset
is it that 30 ministers cannot express their own opinion?” asked Rabbi Melamed,
dean of the Beit El yeshiva. “How is the requirement to represent the people
[being expressed here]?” The transportation minister said – in light of the High
Court’s ruling that the only way to solve the problem is by passing a new law –
that he too would press Netanyahu to allow government ministers to vote freely.