PM reiterates policy of strengthening settlements

Netanyahu waiting for stamp of approval from A-G for the move, which would see 5 stone structures in Ulpana physically moved.

Ulpana outpost near Beit El 370 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)
Ulpana outpost near Beit El 370 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)
Addressing the issue of the Ulpana outpost Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reiterated his policy of strengthening the settlements at the same time as upholding the law.
In a Likud ministerial meeting, Netanyahu said, "it is always possible to resort to a legislative solution, but there is a price to it, including in the international arena." 
Netanyahu said that in order to avoid legislation over the houses built on private Palestinian land, it is necessary to obtain permits to evacuate the houses, to expand the building in the Beit El settlement, and to avoid future law suits.
He told the Likud ministers that he intends to approve the three things together, and is waiting for a response from Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein which he expects to receive today.
He stressed that the price of evacuating the houses in Ulpana is much lower than what has been reported. He added that the construction of ten apartment buildings for each building that is evacuated will allow the addition of 1,000 residents to Beit El.
Over the weekend, Netanyahu held a number of discussions on how to respond to a High Court of Justice mandate last month to remove the buildings, which house 30 families, by July 1.
According to the court the homes were built without permits on private Palestinian property.
Although the buildings are permanent stone structures, it is technically possible to relocate them, the sources said.
Ulpana residents and right-wing politicians have rejected this option and instead called for Netanyahu to support two Knesset outpost bills, which would retroactively legalize unauthorized Jewish West Bank construction, including the five Ulpana buildings.
MKs Ya’acov Katz (National Union) and Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) plan to present these outpost bills to the Knesset on Wednesday for a preliminary reading.
Netanyahu has ordered coalition members to oppose the bills. The prime minister has preferred not to legislate the issue because he believes it creates more issues than it solves.
However, Netanyahu said over the weekend he would support the bills if Weinstein determines that it is not legally possible to relocate the Ulpana homes.
Orlev and Katz have argued that such legislation is necessary, because Ulpana is only one of four outposts due to be demolished this year as the result of High Court petitions filed by Peace Now and Yesh Din. Overall, there are 9,000 Jewish West Bank homes in a similar situation, according to Katz.
Both he and Orlev have argued that if Ulpana homes are destroyed, left-wing groups can continue to petition the court against these homes.
Netanyahu asked the Attorney-General to look for a legal global solution to prevent further petitions.
“I will not allow this sort of litigation to weaken the settlements. For every house that is destroyed, I will build 10,” Netanyahu said.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that it was possible to relocate the structures to an authorized part of Beit El.
Additionally, he said, it is possible to build scores of other homes there.
Professional experts continue to deal with preparations to relocate the homes, Barak said.
In a statement to the media, Ulpana residents said that when Barak was prime minister his government had sent them to live there by providing monetary incentives, grants, mortgages and funds for infrastructure.
“Just like homes in the free world are not destroyed for statutory and bureaucratic problems with the status of the land, so to Ulpana won’t be destroyed,” they said.
Both Labor Party leader MK Shelly Yechimovitch and Meretz Party leader Zahav Gal-On said they supported the relocation plan but attacked Netanyahu’s statement about building ten times as many settler homes.
“It is childish and excessive,” she said. She added that it causes unnecessary harm to Israel’s image abroad, particularly coming after last week’s achievement of returning the bodies of terrorists to the Palestinian Authority, she said.
Gal-On added, “It rewards the lawless behavior of the settlers and encourages other offenses.”
She warned that it would also deal a death blow to the peace process and lead to a single-state solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.
“It reveals the political nakedness of the unity government with Kadima,” she said.
Peace Now Executive Director Yariv Oppenheimer said that Netanyahu didn't need to be congratulated. It should be obvious that he was obligated to execute a High Court of Justice decree.
Netanyahu's decision to seek revenge against the left, through his own form of a "price tag" attack by building in the settlements will only harm Israel, Oppenheimer said.
Right wing politicians also attacked Netanyahu’s plan and called upon him to legalize the homes.
MK Ze'ev Elkin (Likud) warned that destroying the Ulpana was a “serious mistake that violated the national camp’s obligation to the voter."
MK Danny Danon (Likud) said that Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz, who also leads Kadima, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak (Independence) were pushing the coalition to the Left and destroying it from within.
MK Uri Ariel (National Union) warned that the public would not tolerate the demolition of Ulpana outpost.
"It is a ringing slap in the face to the settlement enterprise. It is clear proof that [Netanyahu] has adopted an extremist left wing platform," he said.
Last Wednesday, five activists, including three from the Amona outpost, started a hunger strike to protest the pending demolitions.
The state has promised the High Court it will demolish the Amona outpost by the end of this year.
Four more people, including Katz, are expected to join the hunger strike on Sunday.
On Monday activists plan to start a two-day march to Jerusalem from the Ulpana outpost.
Danon has also planned a meeting of settler leaders in the Knesset on Monday.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.