Ulpana Bill Falls, Nationalists in Coalition Cave In
Nationalists in the coalition caved in and abstained from the Knesset vote Wednesday afternoon that rejected a bill aimed at circumventing a court order to destroy five residential units in the Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El and expel their 30 families.
The vote was 22 for the bill and 69 against. Absent from the vote were all of the ministers and deputy ministers who vowed to test Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s ultimatum to vote against the bill or be fired.
Among those who left the Knesset before the vote were Jewish Home leader Daniel Hershkowitz and Likud minister Yuli Edelstein and deputy minister Ayoub Kara.
Shas ministers also were absent from the vote on the bill, whose sponsor Knesset Member Zevulun Orlev noted that it was on the same day seven years ago that the Sharon government approved the “Disengagement” plan that resulted in the expulsion of more than 9,000 Jews from their homes in Gaza and four northern Samaria communities.
Following the expulsions, which were promoted as guaranteeing peace and quiet for southern Israel, the government ordered the demolition of houses and then withdrew all soldiers from the Gaza region.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pressured nationalist Cabinet ministers not to vote against the Ulpana demolitions and won the day after it was clear he had a solid majority and after he made several concessions to nationalists.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has promised to build 10 new homes for every one torn down and has won legal approval from the attorney general for his plan to take down the houses, brick by brick, and rebuild them nearby on land used by the military.
He also said he will head a new committee on Jewish development in Judea and Samaria, effectively removing the authority of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who has ordered dozens of demolitions of outpost communities and has blocked Jews from living in homes that were legally purchased, most recently in Hevron.
Nationalists fear the failure to pass the bill will encourage more demolitions and expulsions at more communities, such as Migron and Givat Asaf, where left-wing groups have challenged the legality of their construction.
MK Orlev chided Prime Minister Netanyahu for offering to expand building in Beit El in return for the demolitions. “If the prime minister wants to expand building, why tie it with this destruction in the Ulpana neighborhood?” he asked.