Rightist ministers rally against Barak on outposts

Gilad Erdan joins chorus of criticism of Defense Ministry's instructions to demolish Ulpana outpost.

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)
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) called on Sunday for removing Defense Minister Ehud Barak's authority over settlements in the West Bank and transferring them to a ministerial committee.
Erdan's comments join a growing chorus of anger at Barak over a government plan to destroy 30 homes in Ulpana, an outpost adjacent to the Beit El settlement.
Before Passover, the prime minister said he would ask Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein to find a solution that would prevent the demolition of 30 apartment units at Ulpana, which was ordered by the High Court of Justice and upheld by the Defense Ministry.
Ministers have called on Netanyahu to support legislation that retroactively legalizes outposts on private Palestinian property, such as Ulpana, under certain circumstances.
Speaking with Israel Radio, Erdan said he believed Barak's instructions to destroy the homes because they were built on Palestinian property were not in accordance with the views of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Erdan joins a growing chorus of Likud voices speaking out against Barak. Vice Premier Moshe Ya’alon (Likud) said Saturday that the defense minister has used unnecessary force to evacuate settlers, to “make sure the Left understands who its leader is,” and so that Barak’s Independence party will pass the 2 percent threshold to make it into the Knesset in the next election.
"There is no way that the Ulpana will be evacuated under this government,"Habayit Hayehudi party leader and Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz said Sunday. "If we do not succeed in stopping the eviction, the issue will break up the coalition and lead to early elections."
Left-wing leaders, meanwhile, charged back at the Right, with the Meretz chair saying that a government that ignores the High Court of Justice and supports thievery should be dissolved.
"It's impossible that, again, such as in the case of the Hebron house, that now in the case of the Ulpana hilltop outpost senior government minister openly call for a revolt against the rule of law," Meretz chair MK Zehava Gal-On said, referring first to the government-ordered eviction of Jewish family from a home in the middle of a Palestinian neighborhood earlier this month.
"A government that wants to ignore the law and support robbery should be dissolved," she said.
Gal-On called on the attorney-general to "cease his silence," and ban government ministers from showing contempt of court and ignoring its rulings.
On Saturday Barak’s office responded to Ya’alon’s barbs, saying that the vice premier has a serious case of “Feiglinism,” a reference to Feiglin’s Manhigut Yehudit.
“Feiglinism is not good for the country, its security, its future, or the public in general,” Barak quipped. “I hope, for the public’s sake, that Feiglinism is not contagious.”
Ya’alon also warned that the coalition would fall apart if the government made good on its pledge to demolish the 30 homes in Ulpana.
He was among a number of ministers who spoke out strongly over the weekend in favor of the outpost. Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) visited the families there on Friday morning.
Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat as well as MKs Ofir Akunis, Ze’ev Elkin, Tzipi Hotovely, Miri Regev, Danny Danon, Yariv Levin, Carmel Shama-Hacohen and Tzion Pinyan, all from the Likud, are expected to attend a meeting at Ulpana on Sunday evening along with hundreds of Likud central committee members.
Sunday’s event was organized by the Ulpana neighborhood residents task force – which includes Harel Kohen, a parliamentary assistant for National Union chairman Ya’acov Katz – as well as Moshe Feiglin’s Manhigut Yehudit group, and the National Camp in the Likud.
Likud sources said other ministers had planned to attend the event, but would not be able. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called a meeting of his security cabinet for the same time, a move seen by some as an attempt to lower the profile of the event.
Tovah Lazaroff and Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.