Ehud Barak
Ehud Barak Israel news photo: Flash 90

Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered his office on Monday to find a solution to legalize the Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El, Arutz Sheva has learned.

Five homes in the neighborhood are scheduled to be demolished next month, following an order by the Supreme Court. The issue of the homes in Beit El, one of the largest Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, is whether the five homes were built on private Arab land.

Barak has been feeling the pressure from cabinet ministers who are favoring legislation to legalize the homes before the scheduled expulsion. On Sunday, he said that the problem could be solved if the land were to be bought.

Arutz Sheva has obtained the full content of Barak’s remarks at Sunday’s cabinet meeting.

“In Beit El there are three points that are being clarified between the State and legal authorities: Jabal Al-Artis, where there are a number of trailers outside the community. There are two unfinished buildings in another part of the community, and there are the five buildings in the Ulpana neighborhood, in which people have lived for a long time and the residents themselves rented them or bought them in an orderly manner, but the issue of ownership is not clear and was not regulated. This, of course, should be given an opportunity to be clarified," he said.

“This is not about a court judgment but about a commitment by the State from a year ago,” continued Barak. “The neighborhood itself has been around since I was the Prime Minister and Defense Minister 12 years ago. The duty of the State is that if neighborhoods and buildings are on private land they need to be evacuated. It is important to understand that a government striving to live in a democracy in the 21st century cannot act differently.”

He added, “If indeed it turns out eventually that it is private land, there will probably be no choice other than evacuating it or purchasing it, there is no other way. We found 22 dunams of land in the town which could, under certain circumstances and after plans are approved, be used to build alternative homes for residents of the neighborhood.

“Of course, as far as I’m concerned, if it is found that there are purchase documents and that it was done properly and the court approves it, of course it will open the door to other things,” said Barak. “We have nothing in principle against Beit El. It is a veteran, big, and very important community. In the previous government we had similar issues in Ofra, and I am signed on the affidavits in the courtroom. In the end we are responsible for the rule of law, that the State of Israel will be normative. At the same time we are responsible to find a way to bring about a solution for the Ulpana neighborhood, and I hope a solution is found.”

On Sunday, Minister of Information and Diaspora Yuli Edelstein stated that the option of demolition of the Ulpana neighborhood is not on the agenda.

This option is not on the agenda,” Edelstein told Arutz Sheva and added that he does not think that Barak will “go out to destroy the Ulpana neighborhood at two in the morning. We’re not talking about a shed or a caravan here. This, as everyone already knows well, is a neighborhood in a city where normative families received mortgages to live. You cannot take action against them behind their back.”

On Saturday, Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Yaalon said Barak's "private political agenda" threatened the "dissolution of the government."

Minister of Transportation Yisrael Katz, who was a guest in the Ulpana neighborhood on Friday, said that "Barak is using the Defense Ministry as political tool against the settlers."

Ministers have informed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that if the neighborhood is destroyed, his coalition will follow.