Likud official: Netanyahu, not Bennett responsible for outpost bill
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Likud official: Netanyahu, not Bennett responsible for outpost bill

Member of ruling party says Jewish Home leader unfairly taking credit for initial Knesset approval of controversial settlement legislation

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, seen with Education Minister Naftali Bennett at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on August 30, 2016. (Emil Salman/Pool)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, seen with Education Minister Naftali Bennett at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on August 30, 2016. (Emil Salman/Pool)

An official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party on Wednesday claimed key coalition partner Jewish Home was unfairly taking credit for the Knesset passing a preliminary reading of the controversial bill to legalize West Bank outposts earlier that day.

The bitter criticism came on the heels of a heated plenary session on Wednesday that saw two Jewish Home-sponsored drafts of the bill and one draft by Likud MK Yoav Kisch approved in a preliminary reading.

The various versions of the so-called Regulation Bill passed the first legislative hurdle despite repeated objections from Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and efforts by Netanyahu to delay the vote.

The bill also faced opposition from fellow-coalition party, Kulanu, whose chairman, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, had previously vowed to torpedo the bill.

But minutes before the Wednesday afternoon vote, Kahlon reached an eleventh hour compromise with Netanyahu and agreed to vote in favor of the bill along with his 10 MK-strong party, giving it the necessary votes to pass the preliminary reading.

“The prime minister voted for the bill in the preliminary reading having recruited the majority of the necessary votes in coordination with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and coalition chairman David Bitan,” an unnamed Likud source told Hebrew-language media outlets on Wednesday.

“We regret that while the prime minister is leading the effort to pass the Regulation Bill, Bennett continues to fire inside the armored personnel carrier by participating in briefings against both the prime minister and the Likud, and doesn’t let the facts get in the way of the truth,” the source said.

A mobile home in the outpost of Amona (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)
A mobile home in the outpost of Amona (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)

The issue has put Netanyahu in a complicated position. On the one hand, the impending evacuation threatens to destabilize his coalition, which relies heavily on the pro-settlement right.

But the attorney general has warned that legislation to outflank a High Court ruling would be unconstitutional and harm the rule of law, and that he therefore would not be able to defend the government in court.

Right-wing lawmakers have been seeking a legal loophole to prevent an evacuation with a bill that would formally recognize West Bank outposts.

On Sunday, Netanyahu voiced opposition to pushing the measure through before the High Court had its say. However, he stopped short of using his veto when it came for a vote before the Ministerial Committee for Legislation.

The Regulation Bill will now be sent to either the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee or the Constitution Law and Justice Committee to be revised ahead of its first reading. To become law, the proposals will need to pass three readings in the Knesset plenum. The process is expected to be expedited due to the looming evacuation order of the Amona outpost by December 25.

The Amona outpost, founded in 1995 on a hill near Ramallah in the central West Bank, is home to about 40 families. It is the largest of about 100 unauthorized outposts — built without permission but generally tolerated by the government — that dot the West Bank.

A partial evacuation a decade ago sparked violent clashes between residents and security forces and it is feared a new evacuation could trigger another showdown.

On Monday, the High Court of Justice rejected a request by the government to postpone Amona’s demolition and evacuation.

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