MK Gamliel to Demand 'Free Vote' for 'Ulpana Law'
MK Gila Gamliel (Likud) on Monday became the latest lawmaker to visit Beit El's threatened Ulpana neighborhood.
Gamliel, who serves as a deputy minister for women's issues and children's welfare attached to the Prime Minister's Office, said "repeating demolitions and evictions is no solution."
She also said she would demand government ministers be allowed to vote their conscience should legislation seeking to legalize the neighborhood be brought to a vote.
Last week, MK Yaakov Katz (National Union) withdrew just such a law at the end of a stormy debate when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that the government would not oppose the bill if he introduces it two weeks from now – the period in which Netanyahu Minister hopes to find an administrative solution to the problem posed by the court order.
Had Katz insisted on pushing his law to a vote, Netanyahu would have ordered his ministers and party to vote against it, thereby ensuring it did not pass. Katz's law was one of two laws Netanyahu blocked during the session.
Netanyahu has been under intense pressure from coalition leaders and Likud lawmakers to allow ministers and coalition MKs to vote freely on the bill. The Knesset Land of Israel lobby can command 40 Knesset votes, in addition to the votes of sympathetic ministers and lawmakers (who are not formally members of the lobby).
It is widely believed the bill will easily pass if Netanyahu does not oppose the bill, or seek to enforce government and party discipline against it.
Gamliel, whose tour of the Ulpana was guided by Katz, heard from residents and about the difficulties they have encountered in recent months. One of the residents, who sits on the Likud central committee, told her, "The residents here feel like they are pawns in a government chess game."
"I tell you that the members of the Likud will always remember who voted for - and who voted against - this law," they added.
Gamliel sharply criticized the ministers and Knesset members who discuss the Ulpana neighborhood, but have never visited it.
"How can Minister Benny Begin or Ehud Barak speak? How can I find a solution, but all about the neighborhood without ever being in it?"she asked.
"I met wonderful people here," she said. "There is no doubt that the state cannot do injustice to a community which has lived here for years in good faith. We must find a solution that will keep the residents in their homes."
Gamliel added that the matter was decisively on the government's shoulders, saying their was no reason to blame the court for the problem.
"The Prime Minister is determined to find a solution, and is working very hard to satisfy both the government policy to save the community and the court order," she said. "It a question of public will."
"I hope we will not have to resort to legislation to keep the neighborhood here. However, if we do, I believe that everyone should have the freedom to vote as they see fit," she said.
Netanyahu is said to be considering moving the five threatened buildings – large multi-dwelling structures build on the side of a steep hill – several dozen meters, thereby placing them on state owned land.
Critics say such a move is not only extremely expensive and technically difficult, but absurd from the outset, as it does not solve the same potential problem faced by other communities in Judea and Samaria (Yehuda and Shomron), built not only in good faith – but with government assistance.