Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday shot back at right-wing ministers criticizing his response to a High Court order to evacuate the West Bank outpost of Ulpana, emphasizing that the rule of law is paramount in Israel.
"It must be understood that a government existing in a democratic nation in the 21st century cannot, on a fundamental and deep basis, function any other way," Barak told reporters. "At the end of the day we are responsible for the rule of law, we are responsible for Israel being a normative country among advanced nations and we are additionally responsible for somehow finding a solution for the Ulpana neighborhood."
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The court ordered that 30 homes in Ulpana, adjacent to the Beit El settlement, be evacuated by the end of May because they were built on private land.
Barak said that the government was in the process of clarifying details on three sets of Beit El structures with judicial authorities: a handful of caravans set up outside the settlement, two unfinished buildings in a different part of the settlement, and the Ulpana outpost itself. Regarding Ulpana, Barak noted that people have been living in the homes for a long time and people rented them or acquired them in an appropriate manner, the issue of ownership was still being looked into alongside the defense establishment and a group of ministers including Benny Begin.
"This neighborhood has been around from the time I was Prime Minister," Barak said, calling Beit El a "very important settlement." However, he continued, "neighborhoods or buildings located on private property will be evacuated."
Barak added that the government was checking the status of 22 dunams of land within the settlement that might be used to building substitute houses should residents have to be expelled.