Defense Ministry legal adviser: Ulpana settlers ‘knew what they were doing’

Defense Ministry legal adviser: Ulpana settlers ‘knew what they were doing’

Deputy PM Dan Meridor says there are no grounds to legalize the controversial outpost

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Givat Ulpana (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Givat Ulpana (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Defense Ministry legal adviser Ahaz Ben-Ari on Tuesday rejected claims that the settlers who purchased five contested houses in the Givat Ulpana neighborhood of the West Bank settlement of Beit El did so in good faith.

“They received an order to cease work and they received a demolition order, and they ignored them,” he said. “They continued to build. They knew what they were doing.”

Speaking during a Knesset debate on a proposed “regularization bill” that would legalize the Ulpana neighborhood, including the contested houses, Ben-Ari said, “It’s impossible to legitimize these buildings, because they are build entirely on private land.”

Also on Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor denounced the bill, calling it a legally baseless attempt to bypass a High Court ruling that ordered the demolition of the five houses.

A day before the Knesset is set to vote on the bill, which would set a potential precedent for the legalization of other similar outposts, Meridor called the bill “an illusion” and stated that its enactment would “cause damage not only to settlements in Judea and Samaria, but to Israel as a whole.”

“Israel is not permitted to confiscate land in military controlled territory,” he said, citing a High Court of Justice decision and the Hague Convention. “There is no legal way to make it happen.”

Meridor added that there were no grounds for legitimizing the confiscation of private Palestinian land when there is so much public land on which construction can take place in a permissible manner.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Likud colleagues Monday that the government would build 280 new housing units in Beit El proper as part of a plan to relocate the five buildings slated for destruction in Givat Ulpana.

The prime minister was trying to convince his party’s MKs not to vote Wednesday for the “regularization bill.” Early indications were that this tactic would prove effective, with reports that the bill is set to fail or possibly be withdrawn by its sponsors.

Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz said that the law would likely harm the settlers themselves, and that the upcoming vote was one of the most important decisions for the rule of law in the State of Israel.

MK Zevulun Orlev (Jewish Home) said Monday night, however, that his faction would leave the coalition if the law doesn’t pass and the five houses in Ulpana are destroyed.

Orlev called Netanyahu’s solution of moving the buildings to public lands “problematic,” saying there are legal options for compensating the Palestinian landowners.

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