Beit El’s Ulpana neighborhood homes, under the threat of court-ordered demolitions, will be the first test of the coalition, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told reporters Wednesday.
The new national unity coalition, formed hours after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he would go to the polls becuase of an unstable government, now includes the center-left Kadima party.
“The main tests of the coalition will be the Tal Law and the demolitions of the homes in the Ulpana neighborhood,” Lieberman said. The Tal Law provided for exemptions from serving in the IDF for young men learning in yeshiva. Lieberman has been leading a campaign to replace it with a law providing for universal draft of all Israelis, including Arabs who could work in a civilian capacity.
Concerning the Ulpana neighborhood, Lieberman stated at a press conference, “Those residents have been living there for years, and they are law-abiding citizens who serve in the armed forces and are tax-paying workers.”
The Ulpana neighborhood “is not an illegal outpost,” he added. The leader of Yisrael Beiteinu said that if a mistake was made, it was that of the government and not the residents who were told by the government they could live there. "The government must take responsibility for its mistake,” he declared.
Lieberman said that the solution is for the government to pass a law to arrange for the families to remain in their homes.
“I have no doubt that the Prime Minister will do what the members of the coalition expect him to do," he said.
The Ulpana neighborhood stood unquestioned for years until left-wing groups filed a petition to the court claiming that the land on which the homes were built belongs to a Palestinian Authority Arab. The residents have claimed they bought the property legally but cannot reveal the name of the seller in order to save him from probable execution by the Palestinian Authority, where selling land to Jews is considered a crime punishable by death.
Kadima has not taken a clear position on the issue since Shaul Mofaz took over the leadership after defeating Tzipi Livni in the party’s primaries. He and Prime Minister Netanyahu presumably took the issue into account before agreeing on the national unity government. If Mofaz agrees not to oppose a move to legalize the neighborhood, he might demand a political price, as yet unknown.
Formally, Mofaz has said, "I believe in the rule of law ,” implying that the court order must be carried out, but he also added, “We will find a suitable solution.”