Daily Israel Report

Ulpana Committee Resolves More Talk

PM Netanyahu's ministerial committee on Beit El's threatened Ulpana neighborhood resolved to 'hold further discussions'
By Gabe Kahn
First Publish: 5/11/2012, 4:14 PM

Ulpana neighborhood
Ulpana neighborhood
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The special ministerial meeting convened on Friday to discuss ways of saving Beit El's threatened Ulpana neighborhood has concluded without decision.

Participants resolved to "hold further discussions" at a later date.

The committee included Netanyahu, newly minted Vice Premier and Minister Without Portfolio Shaul Mofaz, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe "Bogie" Yaalon, and Minister Benny Begin.

Senior officials from the IDF Civil Administration for Judea and Samaria attended the meeting as well.

Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin before the meeting said any law dealing with threatened Jewish communities must be justly formulated.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that saving the Ulpana neighborhood and doing away with the controversial Tal Law posed key tests for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's newly enlarged 94-seat super-coalition.

“The residents living on the Ulpana Hill are law-abiding citizens and fulfill all their obligations: They serve in the IDF and do reserve duty, they work and pay taxes,” Lieberman explained.

“This is not an illegal outpost; it is the government’s mistake," he explained.

Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On, blasted the idea of legislating the government's problem away saying, "The rest of the Israeli population does not get special laws."

However, Rivlin noted that illegal Beduin towns in the South were legalized via legislative fiat last year.

While Netanyahu is said to be mulling a administrative seizure of the land the Ulpana neighborhood sits on - rendering them property of the state - there are also two potential legislative tracks.

National Union Party head MK Yaacov Katz and MK Zevulun Orlev of the Jewish Home party plan to present separate bills on the matter, for which they believe there is majority support.

It is unclear if bills will be presented to the plenum on Monday or Wednesday as Rivlin has yet to place them on the schedule.  The vote is considered a preliminary reading, after which the bills must move to committee and return to the plenum.

However, the Supreme Court has ruled Israeli law does not apply in Judea and Samaria, which has never been annexed and remains under military rule.

Problematically for Netanyahu, the Supreme Court has also ruled that administrative actions taken by a government are subject to more comprehensive review by the courts than legislation is.

As a result, either path – legislation or a seizure order – could place Netanyahu's newly forged 94-seat supermajority on a collision course with the Supreme Court.

Likud MK Miri Regev has called for Netanyahu to solve the problem by annexing all state lands in Jewish communities in the region, thereby extending Israeli law to all threatened communities in the region.

Netanyahu's race to find a solution comes on the heels of the Supreme Court's rejection of a government petition asking for an additional 90 days in which to explore the matter.

The threatened homes were built on land purchased by Beit El several years ago. However, another Arab of the same name claimed that the seller was not the real owner and filed suit in the Supreme Court. The court ruled,  and the government agreed, without argument, to destroy the houses.

One year later, the government's legal office came to survey the site and realized that the buildings in question were permanent apartment blocks, built in good faith by people who thought they had legal ownership, and that the legal office should have asked the courts to allow them to try and find a way to solve the ownership problem before the court issued a ruling.