Begin: PM can't promise an end to demolitions

Katz calls on Likud ministers to support outpost bill, prevent one-fifth of settlement homes from being removed after Ulpana precedent.

Apartments in Ulpana oupost in danger of being evacuated  (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Apartments in Ulpana oupost in danger of being evacuated
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu cannot promise he will not order more settlement homes demolished, Ministerwithout- Portfolio Bennie Begin told the Knesset State Control Committee on Tuesday, in a meeting on the Ulpana outpost near Beit El.
“I hope that the case of Ulpana is unique and does not set a precedent, but the prime minister cannot say it will not happen again,” Begin said, adding that he does not see a possibility of the government saying all settlement homes built on private land will be authorized.
In the case of the Ulpana outpost, which is scheduled to be demolished by the end of the month, no matter what option the government chooses it will not be good, he said.
The minister explained that the government has a policy of settlement expansion, even though the diplomatic circumstances are complex.
“The existence of 360,000 Jews in Judea and Samaria is based on past decisions by the High Court of Justice and the Attorney-General’s Office,” Begin said.
National Union chairman Ya’acov Katz (National Union), who called the meeting, said later on Tuesday that Begin’s statements prove that Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein cannot be trusted to carry out Netanyahu’s demand to prevent the demolition of thousands of outpost homes because of the Ulpana precedent.
Katz called on Likud ministers to vote according to their conscience to “prevent a terrible injustice and a social tragedy – the destruction of one-fifth of the settlements in Judea and Samaria that has a similar status to the buildings in the Ulpana outpost.”
At the meeting’s opening, State Control Committee chairman Uri Ariel (National Union) asked why the Attorney-General’s Office called for the homes in the Ulpana outpost to be torn down, rather than other options, including precedents from the High Court, to prevent the demolition.
The court adopted the Attorney- General’s Office’s recommendation, and as such, the outpost must be demolished, experts say.
MK Arieh Eldad (National Union) read aloud from a High Court decision from 2007, in which Peace Now and residents of Bil’in said parts of a neighborhood in Modi’in Illit was built on private Palestinian land.
The court determined that it would be unfair to destroy homes that were already built, because it would hurt those who innocently bought homes from the contractor.
“I don’t understand why the state hurried to tell the High Court that whatever is on private land must be destroyed if this precedent exists,” Eldad said. “The issue here is not the court, but the state’s stance on the matter.”
Attorney-General’s Office representative Osnat Mandel pointed out that the Ulpana settlers did not try to appeal to the High Court, and the Defense Ministry’s policy is to demolish what is built on privately owned land.
Defense Ministry legal adviser Ahaz Ben Ari said that Beit El was formed in 1978, on private land that the state took over for military purposes in 1970. After 1979, the government stopped using privately owned land.
According to Ben-Ari, the Ulpana outpost is outside the land used from 1970, and those who constructed the homes knew this.
Katz made an emotional appeal to Begin, accusing him of “destroying for the sake of destruction.”
“Begin does not have one drop of mercy. He destroys souls and is tearing apart the Israeli public,” Katz said. “Justice that is followed by a crime, by a heart of stone, is not true justice.”
MK Ghaleb Majadele (Labor) accused Katz of owning part of the company that built the Uplana outpost, saying the public must know the truth.
Majadele’s claims cannot be verified, as the Company for the Development of the Beit El Yeshiva is owned by Holyland Holdings, a company registered in the Marshall Islands, an island country located in the northern Pacific Ocean where the law keeps the names of Holyland Holding’s owners and directors confidential.
Katz’s office refused to comment on the matter.
Residents of the Ulpana outpost also spoke to the committee, with Reut Lehrer saying that she feels like her family members are “puppets on strings,” living in uncertainty.
Harel Cohen, Katz’s assistant and an Ulpana resident, said that Begin promised a year ago to promote a bill that would prevent the outpost homes’ demolition.
“We are not cockroaches or dust! What country in the world destroys homes that it built, other than places like Syria,” Cohen asked, on the verge of tears.
“You want to kick my wife and my children out of our home, you want to ruin our lives,” Cohen said to Begin. “Out of respect to your father [former prime minister Menachem Begin], don’t do it.”
MK Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism) said the issue was not about property; rather it was a question of who controls the state – the democratically elected government, or the High Court.
“When a government moves its sovereignty to the Attorney- General’s Office and the courts, it destroys the state, turning it into a terrible dictatorship,” Eichler said.
The court does not have to account for its decisions, he added, and therefore, it is a dictatorship destroying democracy in Israel.
According to MK Amir Peretz (Labor), settlers act as though anyone who does not support them hates Israel, but demolishing the Ulpana outpost would be better for the country’s future.
“You should not give the message to your children that anyone who doesn’t agree with them is a monster looking into their window at night,” Peretz said. “If you care about Israel’s interests, if you are a Zionist, you should understand that.”
MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) said the Knesset should not have to “clean the attorneygeneral’s dirty laundry,” in the form of a law that would cover his mistake in the High Court.
“In east Jerusalem, the Attorney- General’s Office explained that illegal homes cannot be destroyed because of strategic interests,” Hasson pointed out, asking why the same policy does not apply to settlement homes.