Five people were arrested on Wednesday as thousands of right-wing activists burned tires at the entrance to Jerusalem in protest against the Knesset’s rejection of a bill that would have regularized unapproved settlements and saved five buildings in the Givat Ulpana outpost from demolition.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had opposed the bill and instead proposed an alternative plan to build additional housing units in Beit El proper in exchange for the five buildings slated to be removed.
The bill was defeated in a raucous Knesset session, with 69 opposed and 22 in favor, with 29 abstentions.
The buildings in Givat Ulpana are slated for destruction on July 1 by order of the High Court of Justice, after it was determined they were built on private Palestinian land.
MK Zevulun Orlev (Jewish Home) said in his arguments for the bill that the issue was broader than the five Ulpana buildings. He noted that the date, June 6, was the same date the Sharon government decided to clear out Gaza’s Gush Katif settlements.
“Do you really think this is about five buildings? If the prime minister wants to build more buildings in Beit El, why does it need to be linked to the buildings in Givat Ulpana?” Orlev asked. “Is this how we build a state?”
Orlev reiterated his intention to leave the coalition government given the bill’s failure to pass, along with 11 other Religious Zionist members of Netanyahu’s government.
In his arguments on behalf of the government, MK Benny Begin (Likud) said that the state was not giving up the Jewish people’s right to the land, but that the High Court decision must be respected. He noted that the settler movement was now entering its third generation.
Despite earlier statements that they would support the bill, MKs Gila Gamliel (Likud), Ayoub Kara (Likud) and Daniel Hershkowitz (Jewish Home) all abstained. All three hold ministerial positions, and Netanyahu had threatened to remove from their posts any ministers who voted for the bill.
Eight Likud MKs defied the prime minister’s instructions and voted in support of the bill: Carmel Shama-HaCohen, Ofir Akunis, Zeev Elkin, Danny Danon, Tzipi Hotovely, Chaim Katz, Yariv Levin and Miri Regev.
MKs supporting the bill met with reporters Wednesday morning and criticized the prime minister and the Likud ministers opposing the bill.
“It’s a puppet vote,” MK Hotovely said, adding that many of those opposed to the bill did so out of “disingenuous considerations” and because of threats by the prime minister to fire any minister who voted in favor of it. Hotovely voted for the bill.
“The Knesset must allow the freedom of voting for ministers — the government must not be a puppet government,” she added.