Ulpana outpost near Beit El 370 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)
The Knesset is poised to hold a preliminary reading of an outpost bill which would legalize many unauthorized West Bank Jewish homes in both outposts and settlements.
Ahead of Wednesday’s vote, National Union Party leader Ya’acov Katz, who proposed the bill, and MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) met Tuesday with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has opposed efforts to legislate the issue of unauthorized Jewish building in the West Bank.
Netanyahu is set to enforce coalition discipline against the bill. Ministers or deputy ministers risk losing their post if they vote in favor of the bill.
Orlev, who had initially planned to bring a similar bill to the Knesset, decided late Tuesday night to pull his legislation temporarily, because he feared it lacked a majority. On Wednesday, he announced he would postpone the bill for two weeks.
Once a bill fails to pass a preliminary reading, legislators must wait six months before bringing it back to the plenum for a vote. It is assumed that the outpost bills can only pass if some of the ministers and deputy ministers break coalition discipline.
Katz, however, believes he does have the votes and that some of the ministers will risk Netanyahu’s wrath and vote in favor of the bill.
The timing here is critical because the High Court of Justice has ordered the state to demolish by July 1 five apartment buildings in the Ulpana outpost, located on the outskirts of the Beit El settlement, and to evacuate by August 1 the entire Migron outpost, which is home to 50 families. In addition, the state has told the court it will take down the Mitzpe Assaf outpost by July 1, which is home to 25 families.
All three outposts in the Binyamin region were constructed without the proper permits on land which the state classified as private Palestinian property.
However, in all three cases, the Ministry of Construction and Housing spent money on infrastructure; for Ulpana NIS 4.5 million, Migron NIS 4.3 million and Mitzpe Asaf NIS 600,000.
There are dozens of other outposts and hundreds of other unauthorized homes in West Bank settlements that were similarly constructed with initial nods of approval, but for whom final permits were never issued.
Katz’s legislation, if it passes, would legalize those homes and outposts. In cases where the homes and outposts were built on private Palestinian property the legislation offers to compensate the Palestinian owners.
The High Court of Justice has intervened in the issue at the request of Peace Now and Yesh Din, which petitioned the court and asked that it force the state to execute the law with respect to unauthorized construction.
Settlers and right-wing politicians fear that if the state is forced to evacuate both Ulpana and Migron, these two organizations will continue to attack the issue of unauthorized Jewish West Bank building in a piece meal fashion, one home or one outpost at a time.
They therefore have sought a global solution. For Ulpana and Migron, legislation remains the only possible options, which could save these two outposts. Authorization of Migron, Mizpe Assaf and any other independent outpost, would transform those communities into new legally recognized settlements.
The international community, which wants Israel to remove the outposts, believes such a move breaks Israel’s pledge not to create new settlements.