Coalition hangs in the balance over outposts bill

After living in Amona for 18 years, she [Tamar Nizri] said she wants to remain and raise her grandchildren in the hilltop community on the outskirts of the Ofra settlement.

November 16, 2016 05:18
Moshe Kahlon


Kulanu and Bayit Yehudi butt heads over the outpost bill Tuesday, leaving in the balance Wednesday’s scheduled vote on the legislation meant to save the Amona outpost from demolition and legalize more than 2,000 settler homes.

The legislation’s final passage is the last hope the 40 families living in Amona have to avoid the High Court of Justice-ordered demolition of their hilltop community.

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After Finance Minister and Kulanu Party leader Moshe Kahlon spoke out against the bill, it became unclear whether the coalition would have sufficient votes for it to be approved in a preliminary reading, but Bayit Yehudi threatened to vote against the budget in response.
MK Hotovely on legality of settlement resolution and regarding Amona

Coalition chairman David Bitan (Likud) was still working on whipping up votes at press time, and a coalition source said he was having difficulty getting a majority.

Without Kulanu’s 10 votes, the coalition and opposition would be tied at 55. Each side has an authorized absence – Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin and MK Yael Cohen-Paran (Zionist Union) are at the Marrakesh Climate Change Conference – and MK Bennie Begin (Likud) said he will vote against the bill, leaving the coalition with 53 to the opposition’s 54.

“I won’t support a bill that harms or can be understood as harming the High Court,” Kahlon said at the Eilat Journalism Conference.

Kahlon pointed out that the coalition agreement, which Education Minister Naftali Bennett also signed, gave the finance minister veto power on matters relating to the High Court.

“That’s it. There’s nothing else to discuss… I’ll talk to the attorney-general and we’ll look at the bill. If it’s harmful, it won’t happen,” Kahlon said.

As a former Likud minister, Kahlon said he thinks 90% of the party’s MKs are opposed to the bill but, are acting under pressure.

“They want us [to block the bill]. They’re treating Kulanu like we’re Shabbat goys, token leftists,” he stated.

Soon after, MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) tweeted that if there is no coalition discipline for the outpost bill, there won’t be any for the economic arrangements bill, a vital component of the budget votes.

A source close to Bennett confirmed that this is the party’s stance; unless it’s clear that there is enough support to pass the bill, the proponents would likely temporarily withdraw until they were sure it could pass.

Once a bill has failed in a preliminary reading, parliamentarians must wait six months before bringing it back for a vote. With the Amona deadline looming, right-wing politicians cannot afford to take that risk.

But the bill is much larger than the issue of 40 families on Amona.

It goes a long way to ending the issue of illegal settler homes of new communities, which is a redline for the international community.

The US on Monday said the bill is “unprecedented” and goes against Israeli policy and past international commitments.

On Tuesday, France also condemned it.

“This proposed law, if it were adopted, would once again jeopardize a two-state solution and would contribute in worsening tensions on the ground.

France is deeply concerned by it,” French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said in a daily briefing.

The bill struck a nerve among the Israeli Left, not just because it authorized settlement homes, but because many of the homes that would be legalized by the bill are on private Palestinian property.

It also uses legislation to circumvent a court ruling.

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit has argued against the legislation, which he said fails to meet the standards of both Israeli and international law.

The bill’s troubled legal status, and the possibility that the High Court of Justice might strike it down, caused a small group of settlers to urge parliamentarians to draft a bill that would stand up in court. The nine families in the Ofra settlements, whose homes are similarly under a court-ordered demolition date in February, asked legislators to approve the bill, but only so they could redraft it.

MK Tzipi Livni, who opposed the bill, also called on parliamentarians to approve it, just so they could reveal the true face of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

On Tuesday night, left-wing protesters held a small demonstration outside Bennett's home in Ra'anana.

Peace Now director Avi Buskilia said Bennett had taken over the government, which has “lost all restraint and allows a handful of lawless people to determine Israel’s policies.”

He added that it is now clear the Israeli government is being run by the “hilltop youth.”

Tamar Nizri, a mother of eight, said she had come to the meeting precisely at the moment when she should have been home preparing dinner and preparing her children for the following school day.

To Netanyahu, she said: “You’re the captain of our ship, the captain of our country, we need you to help us stay here.”

After living in Amona for 18 years, she said she wants to remain and raise her grandchildren in the hilltop community on the outskirts of the Ofra settlement.

She said that she knows the prime minister could stand strong against pressure when he wants to, and asked him to do that here.

Nizri and linked the fate of her community with those homes, saying if they allowed the community to be razed, the same fate would await others like it.

The resistance here must be stiff enough so that the images of it would prevent any other demolition, she told Army Radio on Tuesday morning.

“It’s a crime to pull people from their homes,” she added.

“We want justice and that is the law that should exist here.”

She also spoke of the difficulty of watching the IDF execute such evacuation orders, saying not all orders should be followed, and noting that “Hitler’s soldiers” were also just following orders.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said there is a very real possibility that he would have to evacuate the Amona outpost and, therefore, some of the statements he had heard were “unacceptable.” He urged people not to drag the IDF into the political debate.

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