Upon completing a round of meetings with the heads of the coalition parties and the Likud ministers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu declared on Monday that the outpost arrangement bill would not be passed. The prime minister has said that he preferred evacuation and relocation over legislation that would bypass the court. "Even if the court's decision is difficult for some to accept," Netanyahu said Monday, "we must honor it."
The bill aims to retroactively authorize construction of five disupted buildings, comprising some 30 apartments, that are slated for court-ordered demolition at the end of the month. The High Court of Justice ruled in April that the homes had been built on private Palestinian land that must be restored to its owner. The outpost arrangement bill stipulates compensating the owner rather than demolishing the existing homes, circumventing the court's ruling.
The bill still stands a tiny chance of passing, however. Netanyahu may support the bill if he feels that relocation would have more negative consequences than bypassing the court.
Netanyahu asked Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein to come up with a legal mechanism that would prevent the relocation of Ulpana homes from setting a legal precedent. Such a precedent would open the door to countless new claims by Palestinians and threaten many existing settler homes. Should Weinstein fail to find a legal solution, Netanyahu might support the arrangement bill. Weinstein was expected to submit an opinion on the matter by Tuesday.
The Knesset plenum will vote on the bill on Wednesday.
Ahead of the vote, the residents of the homes in question spoke out on Monday, declaring openly and unanimously for the first time that they would resist evacuation "at any cost."
In April, the High Court of Justice ruled that five buildings, housing 30 families, in Ulpana had been built on privately owned Palestinian land and must be demolished by the end of June. The outpost arrangement bill, which would bypass the court's decision, currently appears not too likely to pass.
"We will risk our lives. There is going to be a world war," said one Ulpana resident at an emergency meeting attended by hundreds of Beit El residents on Monday. "Will this be Amona 2?" he asked, referring to the 2006 evacuation of the outpost of Amona, which turned violent and left a lingering scar. "Maybe there will be an Amona times two. We are not the violent ones — like in Amona, the violence is instigated by those who violently and cruelly expel us from our homes."
The residents insisted that the proposal raised by Netanyahu — to dismantle the existing structures and physically relocate them to a nearby site — could not feasibly be implemented. The head of the Beit El council, Moshe Rosenbaum, said "we demand that the government, in its entirety, come to its senses and avert the decision to demolish homes. Even terrorists don't have their homes demolished."
Earlier on Monday, hundreds of settlers set out on a three-day march from Ulpana to the Knesset in efforts to pressure the government to uphold the outpost arrangement bill. Meanwhile, some 30 residents of the outposts Amona, Givat Assaf and Migron, as well as residents of Ulpana, launched a hunger strike at a protest tent near the Supreme Court building in Jerusalem. Among the hunger strikers were MK Yaakov Katz (National Union) and the chairman of the Yesha settler council, Danny Dayan.
On Tuesday, Peace Now Director Yariv Oppenheimer, who initially petitioned the High Court of Justice over the ownership of the Ulpana land, rejected arguments that the Ulpana homes cannot be evacuated since they are already populated. Oppenheimer explained that the petition seeking to evacuate the land was submitted to the court before the buildings had been occupied.
Oppenheimer added that his battle was not over the five buildings in question but rather it was over who "controls the state." He voiced hope that the High Court would be able to rein in the settlers' "takeover," Israel Radio reported.
Also on Tuesday, Yisrael Beitenu MK Faina Kirshenbaum told Army Radio that she supported the outpost arrangement bill and that it would resolve the problem "once and for all."
Reacting to recent calls that a law bypassing the court's ruling would spark international criticism against Israel, Kirshenbaum said that "everyone is warning about [action against Israel in] international courts and the wave of global criticism that we would face — but we are just a part of an extremely volatile region. To our north we have a country that is perpetrating genocide, and I don't see the international courts doing anything to stop it. Not far from there, there is another country that is developing nuclear weapons and no one is preventing it."