Habayit Hayehudi threatens coalition crisis over demolition

Party speaks out against government destruction of unauthorized outposts, settlement neighborhoods constructed on private Palestinian property.

311_Herschkowitz (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Habayit Hayehudi threatened on Monday to leave the coalition if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government continues to destroy unauthorized outposts and settlement neighborhoods that are constructed on private Palestinian property.
“Destroying homes in the land of Israel will bring a political tsunami that will break apart the government,” party leader and Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz said in a press conference on Monday. “This threatens the Likud more than any other party, because there are more Likud voters than Habayit Hayehudi voters in Judea and Samaria.”
“No faction in the coalition – except for maybe one – is comfortable with the situation in which homes in Israel are being destroyed,” Herschkowitz said, hinting at Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s Independence party.
Meanwhile, most Likud MKs spoke out against the destruction during a faction meeting and a press conference with the National Union, an opposition party, including ministers seen as Netanyahu’s close allies.
Following the prime minister’s statement at the beginning of the faction meeting that the government’s efforts must go toward strengthening settlements “that will most certainly remain under Israeli sovereignty in any future agreement” with the Palestinians, as opposed to outposts, every MK in attendance slammed the pending demolition, except for Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin.
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar pointed out that the Ulpana neighborhood in Bet El was funded and planned by the government. “It cannot be that someone can come and make a claim against those homes, and we automatically treat it as valid,” he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that the government needs to propose different legal solutions to the High Court of Justice, which sees demolition as the only option.
Begin, however, said that there is no choice but to uphold the court’s decision, however, the government could try to soften the blow to the settlers.
“If residents said they accept the fact that there is no way to stay on the land, but they’d be willing to move somewhere else [with the government’s help], then we could probably delay the demolition for another year or two,” he explained to the other Likud MKs.
A Likud source said that during the faction meeting, which was closed to the press following Netanyahu’s initial statement, the prime minister said he supports the outposts and agrees with the MKs, and that his advisers are looking for legal solutions to the problem.
Also on Monday, six of the most senior religious-Zionist rabbis met on Monday with Likud MKs Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein; Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz; Deputy Minister for Pensioners Affairs Leah Ness; Danny Danon; Ohpir Akunis; Tzipi Hotovely; Miri Regev; Tzion Pinyan; Haim Katz; Yariv Levin; as well as National Union and Habayit Hayehudi members to warn them of political fallout should the outposts be destroyed.
Rabbis Dov Lior, Chaim Steiner, Zalman Melamed, Haim Druckman, Zephaniah Drori and Eitan Eisman told Edelstein, who initiated the meeting, that if the coalition did not change its mind about destroying the outposts then it would be impossible for them to continue to support the prime minister and the government’s agenda.
Lior exhorted coalition MKs to “stand firm” and “prevent disaster,” suggesting that those with claims to the land could be compensated monetarily, rather than destroying Jewish homes.
Akunis explained to the rabbis that “very few Likud MKs disagree with preventing demolition in the settlements, if any do at all.”
“Never has the Likud been so united over one issue,” Hotovely said. “We have the political power and the spiritual backing.
I said to the prime minister: ‘There must be legislation [to prevent outposts from being destroyed.]’” Danon called on the prime minister to instruct the Attorney- General’s office to find a way to legalize the outposts, as was done with the homes of fallen soldiers Roi Klein and Eliezer Peretz.
“We need to act according to the values of the Likud – build and not destroy,” Danon added.
Levin said that the government “needs to be practical. Delay the demolition, and then make the outposts legal.”
“We need to convince the prime minister to say ‘we will not destroy,’” National Union leader Ya’acov Katz said. “Committees and legislation can wait.”
Following the meeting with rabbis, one National Union source posited that Netanyahu was not stopping the demolition in order to bring early elections.
“He probably sees the polls and thinks he could win again,” the source said.
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.