The pending demolition of the Ulpana outpost in the West Bank will be an
immediate test case by which one can measure the ideology of the new 94- member
national unity government.
In the past month, high ranking Likud members
including Vice Premier Moshe Ya’alon have warned that the government could fall
if it allowed the implementation of a court order to remove by July 1 five stone
structures in the outpost that house 30 families.
It was always assumed
that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was strong enough to carry out such an
Still, Kadima Party leader Shaul Mofaz’s decision Tuesday to
join Netanyahu’s government immediately removed any threat that it would fall
Politically, the prime minister is free to implement the
High Court’s ruling and remain in power.
The question is – will he? Last
week, under his guidance, the state asked the High Court of Justice to release
it from its promise to destroy the homes, which are located on the outskirts of
the Beit El settlement. It also asked the court to reopen the case
against the homes. In the past the state had said that they were built on
private Palestinian property. It now believes that new evidence exists
that brings that designation into question.
A lower court is also in the
midst of adjudicating the issue of land ownership, in a civil suit.
Monday, the High Court rejected the state’s request and demanded that the homes
be torn down by July 1.
Netanyahu has often spoken of the importance of
the rule of law. No one expects him to blindly ignore the court.
is assumed that a lawful move, which could thwart the measure, would be for
Netanyahu to bring a bill to the Knesset that would authorize outposts,
including those like Ulpana constructed on land classified by the state as
private Palestinian property.
In the past year, he has rejected such
legislative attempts. Parliamentarians were not able to galvanize enough
support to bring the matter to a vote in the plenum through a private member’s
It is assumed that Netanyahu’s support would be needed for such a
bill to become law.
On Monday, however, with the dissolution of the
Knesset in the works, legislation was not an option.
political reality, in which the legislature remains in session, allows
parliamentarians to pressure the prime minister to support such a bill.
number of them told The Jerusalem Post that they believed he would.
emergency meeting in Beit El on Tuesday night, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz
(Likud) urged the government to find a way to save the homes.
friends in the Likud, and certainly Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will make
every effort for the neighborhood, within the law, authority and justice,”
“The current situation is leading to a great absurdity in
terms of morality, and the government must find a way to change this situation,
including changing the law,” he added.
Earlier in the day at a joint
press conference with Kadima Party head Shaul Mofaz in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said
the matter required some thought, and that it was important to respect the rule
Until now, his preference has been to relocate outpost homes
located on private Palestinian property to nearby state land. Ulpana
presents a particular challenge because the homes are not modular ones or small
stone structures, but rather apartment buildings, each of which houses six
The specter of such an evacuation evokes memories of the
demolition of 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip during the 2005
Netanyahu is often described as a right-wing leader who
champions the settlers.
But in reality, he has zigzaged both left and
right since taking office in March 2009.
First he swung left and in
November 2009 imposed the most stringent crackdown on Jewish West Bank
construction in the history of the settlement movement when he mandated a
10-month moratorium on all new construction.
Then in a rightward swing,
he did more than the previous two governments to legalize unauthorized settler
homes and communities. Last month, he converted three outposts into settlements.
It is the first time new settlements have been authorized in over a
His government has looked at legalizing a number of those
unauthorized communities located on state land.
It is assumed that he is
caught between the demands of the peace process, which forces him left, and
those of his party, which push him right.
The frozen peace process,
however, means that he has more leeway to act in support of settlements. The
national unity government allows him to move against them without much political
His decision to move left or right on this issue will be a
telling political move that will reflect his own philosophy when it comes to
supporting settlements in Judea and Samaria.