Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday defended the state’s pledge to the High
Court of Justice to remove 30 homes at the Ulpana outpost by the end of this
“The state has promised that if it is found that the homes are
built on private Palestinian land, they will be removed,” he said.
spoke in the aftermath of a stormy political weekend, in which politicians
warned that the coalition would fall if the homes were demolished.
Sunday, Habayit Hayehudi chairman Daniel Herschkowitz warned that his three MKs
would leave the coalition if the state moved against Ulpana.
“There is no
way that hill will be evacuated while this government still stands,” he
said. “If we cannot stop the demolition, the coalition will fall apart
and bring early elections.”
Herschkowitz called for action, not just
words, on the first day of his party’s pre-primary membership drive.
Likud ministerial meeting, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asked his party’s
ministers to tone down their rhetoric, adding that it was inflaming rather than
helping the situation.
Ministers who had previously issued statements
quieted down for the rest of the day. No ministers appeared at a meeting
of Likud party activists, including members of the central committee, which was
held Sunday evening outside at Ulpana.
Barak told reporters in Jerusalem
on Sunday that options existed to help the 30 Ulpana families who live on the
outskirts of the Beit El settlement. There are 22 dunams of lands
elsewhere in the settlement, which could be developed as alternative homes for
It was important, Barak said, to respect the rule of law
and to hold to the principle that Israeli homes should not be built on private
Palestinian property, unless they had been legally purchased.
Ulpana residents have
said that the property was legally purchased by the Yeshiva in Beit El along
with the company Amana, which operates as the construction arm of the settlement
But the state and the court system have yet to recognize the
legality of that sale.
He explained that the removal date had been set by
the state and had not been mandated by the court. But, Barak said, it is
important to uphold the rule of law. Should the sale be recognized as legal,
obviously that would change the fate of the homes, he added.
that, he said, the only options available were to remove the homes or to
compensate the Palestinian owners, who have petitioned the High Court against
“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 Ulpana.”
The defense minister said that the
government was in the process of clarifying legal issues with regard to the
homes in Ulpana with the the attorney-general’s office. He noted that people
have been living in the homes for a long time and that the people who either
rented them or had purchased them had not understood that there were legal
“This neighborhood has been around from the time I was
prime minister,” Barak said.
Netanyahu had said he would prefer to find a
legal solution that would avoid the demolition of the homes.
reiterated this point at a Likud ministerial meeting on Sunday, prior to the
governmental meeting. Discussions were ongoing on this issue with the
Justice Ministry and the Defense Ministry, he said.
Still, with just a
week left to go until the state-imposed deadline, the state has yet to request
an extension from the court.
Vice Premier Silvan Shalom posted a message
on his Facebook page that said, “we will continue to work to find a solution to
keep the neighborhood where it is and its residents in their homes.” The
settlement movement is a key component of the Likud party, and evacuating the
homes is simply not an option, Shalom added. He is expected to visit the
neighborhood this Wednesday.
MK Danny Danon (Likud) has called for the
Likud convention to take place at the end of this month, as scheduled.
official date for has been set for the 90-day convention, which elects the head
of the central committee and its subcommittees.
According to Danon, the
conference must be called for May, to “define the values that will lead the
Likud in matters of settlement in Judea and Samaria.”
Danon is running
for leader of the Likud central committee against Government Services Minister
Michael Eitan and Netanyahu, the likely winner.
Danon has been
campaigning for the position by highlighting his pro-settlement bona fides and
saying that Netanyahu plans to save a place for Barak on the Likud’s Knesset
candidates list in the next election.
“There is no reason to postpone the
convention,” Danon said. “Only calling the convention immediately will
reflect what our party wants. I have received many positive responses; soon
hundreds of Likud central committee members will relay the message that they
want the convention to be held imminently.”
He was also among a number of
Likud parliamentarians including Ophir Akunis, Miri Regev, Yariv Levin, Ze’ev
Elkin and Tzipi Hotovely who spoke at the Likud party meeting at Ulpana on
Left-wing leaders, meanwhile, charged back at the Right,
with the Meretz chair saying that a government that ignores the High Court and
supports thievery should be dissolved.
“It’s impossible that, again, such
as in the case of the Hebron house, that now in the case of the Ulpana hilltop
outpost, senior government ministers openly call for a revolt against the rule
of law,” Meretz chair MK Zehava Gal-On said, referring first to the
government-ordered eviction of a group of Jewish residents from a home in the
middle of a Palestinian neighborhood earlier this month.
that wants to ignore the law and support robbery should be dissolved,” she
Gal-On called on the attorney-general to “cease his silence,” and
ban government ministers from showing contempt for the court and ignoring its