'Coalition in danger if Ulpana outpost is razed'

Vice Premier Ya'alon says gov't could fall if West Bank community not saved from demolition scheduled by end of month.

yaalon begin pic 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
yaalon begin pic 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon warned Saturday that should the government rule to demolish the West Bank outpost of Ulpana, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's ruling coalition would likely be toppled.
The Ulpana neighborhood in the Beit El settlement was built from 2002 to 2008 on land purchased from Palestinians in 2000, but the paper work was later judged to be unauthentic and the structures there – which house some 30 apartments – are scheduled for demolition by the end of the month. Netanyahu, however, is seeking to make homes in Ulpana an authorized part of Beit El, thus saving them from demolition.
Speaking at a cultural event in Beersheba on Saturday, Ya'alon said "we are a government that is strictly observant to the rule of law. But we are faced with a problem like that of Ulpana, which the Defense Ministry and the State Attorney's Office want to destroy. If the demolition of Ulpana necessitates that the coalition should be broken up, then let the coalition be broken up," Ya'alon stated.
The strategic affairs minister attacked Defense Minister Ehud Barak for his handling of settlements, saying he acted according to his own political agenda, which is not in concert with the rest of the coalition.
Ya'alon made the comments a day after fellow Likud Minister Yisrael Katz visited the neighborhood, saying that the government should not demolish any Jewish homes in Ulpana.
"I came here to express clearly that the houses here should not be destroyed," Katz said in Ulpana, which is nestled in the hills north of Jerusalem. "The government must amend its position concerning the Ulpana neighborhood."
"There is no doubt that when the government gave its answer to the Supreme Court it did not consider all the consequences of that decision," Katz said, referring to the court case in which the government had promised to evacuate the controversial homes in Ulpana.
The transportation minister - an active proponent of the settlement movement who most recently spent time in Hebron as the government planned to evacuate a Jewish home there - said he was working to establish a ministerial committee that would oversee settlement affairs, explaining that it would be "a formal body in which ministers can express their positions."
"The Defense Ministry, of course, will be part of this [committee] but it will not be determining policy by itself," he said, reiterating criticism of Barak, who Katz charged was turning the Defense Ministry into a political tool "at the expense" of settlers.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.