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
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
At the Likud faction meeting, however, Netanyahu defended
his record in support of the settlement movement and asked his party to stand
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
can be compensated in cases where that is not possible, they argued.
re-classification, the politicians believe, would save the outposts and homes
from destruction and take a step toward transforming them into legal
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
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.
make the government “long for Amona I,” Eldad said.