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Photo by: Tovah Lazaroff
Settlers plan 2-day march to J’lem over Ulpana
By TOVAH LAZAROFF
04/06/2012
Right-wing activists call on ministers to prevent demolition of outpost by supporting bills to retroactively legalize them.
 
Right-wing activists plan to set out on a two-day march to Jerusalem Monday to protest governmental plans to demolish five apartment buildings in the Ulpana outpost by July 1.

Another 24 activists have embarked on a hunger strike.

The High Court of Justice last month mandated the demolition of the structures, which house 30 families, because they were built without permits on private Palestinian property.

Right-wing activists have called on ministers to prevent the demolition by supporting two bills – by MKs Ya’acov Katz (National Union) and Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) – that would retroactively legalize unauthorized West Bank Jewish construction, such as the Ulpana homes.

Katz and Orlev are bringing their bills to the Knesset plenum Wednesday for a preliminary reading. But the bills can only pass with ministerial support.

To date, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has refused to support legislation and instead spoke with Likud ministers Sunday at their weekly meeting about a plan to relocate the Ulpana buildings to an authorized tract of land in the Beit El settlement.

He told the ministers that he was waiting for a response from Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein, who he has charged with checking the legality of the plan.

Weinstein is expected to respond to the prime minister in the next few days.

Netanyahu also asked him to examine the impact the Ulpana demolition would have on the ability of left-wing groups, such as Peace Now and Yesh Din, to continue to use litigation to force the state to demolish West Bank Jewish homes.

Katz has estimated that there are some 9,000 West Bank Jewish homes that lack proper permits.

Netanyahu told the ministers that the government wants to both uphold the rule of law as well as defend and strengthen the settlements.

A relocation plan, he said, would meet both goals and would expand the Beit El settlement.

Netanyahu said he would support legislation if Weinstein concludes that legal issues prohibit the relocation of the homes.

The international community is likely to frown on such legislation, which would transform dozens of outposts into newly recognized legal settlements.

MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), who supports the legislation, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that weeks ago he had a conversation with US Ambassador Dan Shapiro, who said that Washington would not view such legislation favorably. The US Embassy could not confirm the conversation.

An embassy spokesman, however, said that the US has clearly stated that unilateral actions by both sides, including settlement activity, does not help the peace process.

Right-wing activists and politicians believe that legislation is the only option.

They have rejected any plan that calls for the removal of West Bank Jewish homes.

Some 19 right-wing activists on Sunday joined a hunger strike, which Amona outpost resident Yehuda Yifrach began last Tuesday to protest the pending demolition of unauthorized West Bank Jewish homes, such as the one that he lives in. By Wednesday, there were four hunger strikers. A fifth joined on Friday.

Last week, Yifrach also pitched a large white protest tent on the corner plaza next to the High Court of Justice and the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.

On Sunday many activists streamed in and out of the tent, and milled around outside.

Generators had been set up, along with plastic tables, a refrigerator and two portable toilets. A number of signs with ministers’ names, photographs and their positions on outpost legislation were set up around the tent.

Katz joined the hunger strike Sunday, along with his assistant Harel Cohen and Binyamin Regional Council head Avi Ro’eh.

Ro’eh has a personal stake in the matter, because the state has promised the High Court it would demolish the Mitzpe Assaf outpost by July 1 and Amona by the end of the year. The High Court has also ordered the state to evacuate the Migron outpost by August 1.

All three outposts are under his jurisdiction. What happens to the Ulpana homes will have an impact on the homes in those outposts as well, he said.

“We need to do everything we can to help the prime minister understand that he cannot do this,” Ro’eh said as he sat on a stone wall outside the tent.

Legislation resolves the larger-scale issue of unauthorized construction in Judea and Samaria, Ro’eh said. “It gives an answer not just for Ulpana but also for Mitzpe Assaf and Amona,” he said.

“We cannot afford to tire.

Even if the sword is at our throat we will do everything that we need to do,” he said.

Demolition of the Ulpana homes, he said, sets a dangerous precedent.

Dahlia Schwarcz, a mother and a grandmother from Moshav Nehalim near Petah Tikva, said she took a short vacation from her job so that she could join the hunger strike.

She said that she had also been an active protester prior to the 2005 Gaza withdrawal.

“I was terribly hurt when Gush Katif [Gaza settlements] were demolished. I feel a little fraction of what Jews felt in the Holocaust, such helplessness that it does not matter what you do. I am here to change that situation,” she said, as she sat on a stone wall outside the tent, wearing a white Tshirt that identified her as a hunger striker.

To her right, a number of protesters sat and prayed. A group of children crowded around the front of the tent and held up signs in support of legislation. Some of them went out to the intersection with their signs and chanted, “the nation wants to legislate.”

Gush Etzion Regional Council head Davidi Perl said that physically he could not join the hunger strike, but that he wanted to show solidarity with them.

On Sunday he moved his office to the protest site, setting up a side tent next to the main tent, where he held his meetings.

“We are talking about a battle for all of Judea and Samaria,” he said, “and for the State of Israel.”

Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.
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