The unusual timing of the High Court ruling ordering the demolition of 30 Ulpana
outpost homes by July 1 may deal a harsh blow to Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu’s re-election campaign.
He must now try to sell himself and his
Likud party to right-wing voters as a strong champion of the settlement
movement, while at the same time ordering the IDF and Border Police to forcibly
remove Jewish families from their West Bank homes.
The images of
destruction are likely to be particularly evocative of the 2005 withdrawal from
Gaza, because at issue are five stone apartment buildings, each of which house
Ulpana is not the only outpost which the court has mandated
the state to evacuate during the electoral season.
Earlier this year, the
court ordered the state to evacuate 50 families from the Migron outpost.
The state has also promised
the court that by July 1 it would evacuate 25 families from the Givat Assaf
The three outposts are located within a short distance of each
other, in the Binyamin region of the West Bank. All the homes in question were
constructed on land recognized by the state as private Palestinian
For years, it was assumed that the fate of Migron would be
symbolic of the struggle to legalize these homes.
But state requests for
delays in the cases have placed Ulpana in the forefront of that
The fate of Ulpana will likely determine that of these other
outposts. Givat Assaf is the only one of these three outposts with could be
saved from immediate evacuation. The state’s pledge to the court to take it down
has not been following by a judiciary ruling.
The only possibility of
averting the demolition of Ulpana and Migron now lies with the Knesset
parliamentarian who could pass a bill authorizing the homes, which could thwart
the court’s ruling.
In the past year, Netanyahu has rejected all
parliamentary attempts – including some by Likud members – to pass such
Now, even if he wanted to support such a Knesset bill, the
dissolution of the 18th Knesset makes such a move almost
Technically, the Knesset could reconvene for a special
session, but that is deemed unlikely.
In response, Likud parliamentarians
have moved quickly to blame the courts and not their own party.
they say, is the champion of the settlement movement but its will has been
hampered by a left-wing court attempting to impose their own
While the claim may allow the Likud party to get off the hook,
their argument opens the door to another electoral issue, the separation of
judiciary and legislative powers and the rule of law.
In the last few
months, Likud ministers, including Vice Premier Moshe Ya’alon, have warned that
the demolition of outpost homes could bring down the coalition.
pundits have speculated that Netanyahu’s government is strong enough to
withstand court-ordered demolitions.
But there is a vast difference
between weathering a political storm while in office by banking on the desire of
ministers to keep their seats, and campaigning as a right-leaning leader while
simultaneously pulling down settler homes.