Rabbis: Facilitate free vote on outpost legislation

4 national-religious rabbis call on Rivlin to help freedom of conscience for gov't ministers in vote that would legalize unauthorized outposts.

Ulpana outpost near Beit El 370 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)
Ulpana outpost near Beit El 370 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)
Four leading rabbis from the national-religious community met on Monday with Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, calling on him to facilitate freedom of conscience for government ministers in a Knesset plenum vote on proposed legislation – which, if passed, would legalize unauthorized settlement outposts across the West Bank.
Rivlin said in response, however, that the government would not be able to directly support the bills because of the “complex” nature of the issue. He nevertheless expressed strong support for a compromise solution in light of the fact that the residents believed the neighborhood to be legal when they moved in.
The bills are being brought forward now because of the High Court of Justice ruling earlier this month ordering the state to demolish 30 homes in the Ulpana neighborhood of the Beit El settlement, which were constructed without the proper permits on land classified by the state as private Palestinian property.
The rabbis appealed to Rivlin to press Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to allow government ministers to vote according to their conscience, and not subject to coalition discipline – as it is thought more likely that the bill will pass if the 30 ministers in the current government were able to vote freely.
“The impression I get from my conversations with the prime minister is that he understands the need for a creative type of solution in order to prevent the destruction of the neighborhood,” Rivlin told the rabbis. “The residents went to live in this place under the impression that it was legal and within a permitted framework, and they were sent by the government of Israel.”
He continued: “It’s not possible to rectify an injustice with another injustice. We need to adjust the law to be just.”
Present at the meeting with Rivlin were Rabbis Haim Druckman, Zalman Melamed, Tzfania Drori and Haim Steiner, along with Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom, MK Ya’acov Katz (National Union) – who initiated the meeting – and several other politicians.
The legislation, proposed by Habayit Hayehudi MK Zevulun Orlev and the National Union MK, would transform dozens of unauthorized hilltop communities into new legal settlements under Israeli law.
The rabbis argued that it is unthinkable that “a quarter of the Knesset cannot vote according to their conscience.”
“What kind of Knesset is it that 30 ministers cannot express their own opinion?” asked Rabbi Melamed, dean of the Beit El yeshiva. “How is the requirement to represent the people [being expressed here]?” The transportation minister said – in light of the High Court’s ruling that the only way to solve the problem is by passing a new law – that he too would press Netanyahu to allow government ministers to vote freely.