PM halts vote on bill to stop outpost demolitions

Edelstein appeals 'Outpost Bill' rejection; MK Orlev: Majority of ministers support initiative; it'll pass eventually.

By
December 18, 2011 14:00
4 minute read.
West Bank outpost [illustrative]

Migron outpost aerial_311. (photo credit: Baz Ratner / Reuters)

 
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Netanyahu rejected a legislative attempt by right-wing politicians on Sunday to legalize West Bank outposts and prevent any further demolitions.

At the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday, Netanyahu instructed its chairman Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman to ensure that the initiative was rejected. It was.

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The bill proposed by MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) states that outpost homes built on private Palestinian property may not be demolished, if they have been in place for more than four years, and if at least 20 families live in the fledgling community. It proposed compensating the Palestinian landowners.

Orlev’s initiative was co-sponsored by 19 other lawmakers, including the chairman of every coalition faction except for Einat Wilf of the Independence Party.

Last week, the Ministerial Committee delayed by two months any debate or vote on a bill that similarly sought to legalize homes on private Palestinian property.

The initiatives are part of a campaign by politicians and settlers to prevent the state from making good on its pledge to take down homes on private Palestinian property in a number of outposts in the next year.

Last week, the state’s removal of a home and a chicken coop in the Mitzpe Yitzhar outpost inflamed West Bank tensions and sparked a “price-tag” attack against a Palestinian mosque in retribution.

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In response to a petition from Peace Now, the state has also promised the High Court of Justice to take down a number of homes in the Ramat Gilad outpost, located on the outskirts of the Karnei Shomron settlement, by the end of the month. It is expected that the state will demolish the outposts of Migron and Givat Assaf in the coming months.

On Sunday morning, hours before the Ministerial Committee voted against the bill, Netanyahu told Neeman to make sure it would not pass, to allow for further negotiations with residents of Ramat Gilad over the future of their homes.

It is also government policy not to authorize homes on constructed on private Palestinian property.

Since October, Netanyahu has pledged to create an outpost committee to re-examine claims by settlers and politicians that land designated by the state as belonging to Palestinian individuals was improperly classified. To date no such committee has been appointed.

Karnei Shomron resident Moshe Zar has said that in the case of Ramat Gilad, the designation is inaccurate, because he bought the land from Palestinians. However, the state has not accepted this claim.

Immediately after the Ministerial Committee meeting, Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud) appealed the vote, saying that the government should have a set policy on construction in Judea and Samaria, and that legislation was the correct way to take care of the matter.

“No one wants to take over land that belongs to a family, but there is a long way between that and declaring that all non-state land is Palestinian land,” Edelstein said.

The bill can still be brought to a preliminary vote in the Knesset this week, but approval by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation would provide government backing and make the initiative more likely to pass.

Therefore, Orlev is waiting for the appeal process to be completed to see if the Ministerial Committee will hold a re-vote on the legislation.

Orlev expressed confidence that most members of the committee support his bill, even if the support was not expressed on Sunday, and said that he was sure that it would eventually become law.

“I have experience in legislation, and I know my bill will pass,” he said.

“I know that, for political reasons, dismantling settlements cannot happen under this government, because it wants to live out its term and not be replaced by a government that will evacuate settlements.”

MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), who co-sponsored the bill, called on the government to solve the outpost problem, and to stop the harm to children and families resulting from “baseless judicial decisions.” It was immoral to demolish homes when no Palestinians have claimed ownership of the land, and the Ministerial Committee for Legislation missed an opportunity to render justice to residents of outposts, Hotovely said.

Last week, opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Kadima) called the bill an attempt to “launder illegal outposts and a victory for price-tag rioters.”

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.

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