Ulpana ruling turns settlements into election issue

Analysis: PM must now sell himself, Likud party to right-wing voters as champion of settlement movement.

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)
The unusual timing of the High Court ruling ordering the demolition of 30 Ulpana outpost homes by July 1 may deal a harsh blow to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s re-election campaign.
He must now try to sell himself and his Likud party to right-wing voters as a strong champion of the settlement movement, while at the same time ordering the IDF and Border Police to forcibly remove Jewish families from their West Bank homes.
The images of destruction are likely to be particularly evocative of the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, because at issue are five stone apartment buildings, each of which house six families.
Ulpana is not the only outpost which the court has mandated the state to evacuate during the electoral season.
Earlier this year, the court ordered the state to evacuate 50 families from the Migron outpost.
The state has also promised the court that by July 1 it would evacuate 25 families from the Givat Assaf outpost.
The three outposts are located within a short distance of each other, in the Binyamin region of the West Bank. All the homes in question were constructed on land recognized by the state as private Palestinian property.
For years, it was assumed that the fate of Migron would be symbolic of the struggle to legalize these homes.
But state requests for delays in the cases have placed Ulpana in the forefront of that battle.
The fate of Ulpana will likely determine that of these other outposts. Givat Assaf is the only one of these three outposts with could be saved from immediate evacuation. The state’s pledge to the court to take it down has not been following by a judiciary ruling.
The only possibility of averting the demolition of Ulpana and Migron now lies with the Knesset parliamentarian who could pass a bill authorizing the homes, which could thwart the court’s ruling.
In the past year, Netanyahu has rejected all parliamentary attempts – including some by Likud members – to pass such legislation.
Now, even if he wanted to support such a Knesset bill, the dissolution of the 18th Knesset makes such a move almost impossible.
Technically, the Knesset could reconvene for a special session, but that is deemed unlikely.
In response, Likud parliamentarians have moved quickly to blame the courts and not their own party.
Likud, they say, is the champion of the settlement movement but its will has been hampered by a left-wing court attempting to impose their own agenda.
While the claim may allow the Likud party to get off the hook, their argument opens the door to another electoral issue, the separation of judiciary and legislative powers and the rule of law.
In the last few months, Likud ministers, including Vice Premier Moshe Ya’alon, have warned that the demolition of outpost homes could bring down the coalition.
Political pundits have speculated that Netanyahu’s government is strong enough to withstand court-ordered demolitions.
But there is a vast difference between weathering a political storm while in office by banking on the desire of ministers to keep their seats, and campaigning as a right-leaning leader while simultaneously pulling down settler homes.