Preliminary voting was postponed Wednesday for two weeks on a bill, submitted by MK Zevulun Orlev (Jewish Home), that would supersede the Supreme Court order to demolish five buildings constructed on privately owned Palestinian land in the Beit El settlement’s Ulpana neighborhood.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Orlev to hold back the bill for two weeks, during which he would seek to find an alternative means of handling the sensitive issue, Orlev said. If no such solution was found, Orlev added, Netanyahu promised him that ministers and all coalition members would be given freedom to vote on the legislation as they wished.
Orlev said he had been assured that no steps to demolish the homes would be taken in the intervening two weeks. The latest court ruling gave a July 1 deadline for the buildings to be demolished.
A similar bill, proposed by Yaakov Katz (National Union), was set for a preliminary vote on Wednesday, but was not backed by the coalition and was expected to fail.
Netanyahu has indicated that he does not support legislation to bypass the Supreme Court order, but has been criticized by right-wing politicians, including from within his own Likud party, for not protecting the Ulpana neighborhood families. Both the Orlev and the Katz bills could also affect the fate of some 9,000 other West Bank settler homes of similar status to the Ulpana neighborhood.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Wednesday spoke out against the proposed legislation, and the precedent of “bypassing” a Supreme Court ruling. “It would harm the country, the government and the settlers,” he said, and serve as “an effective weapon in the hands of our enemies.”
Orlev argued that such a law was vital, however, and said he believed it would eventually pass. While Netanyahu says he wants to prevent the eviction of the 30 families in the five affected Ulpana buildings, said Orlev, that is what would happen if the law was not passed.
Peace Now released a statement condemning Orlev’s proposed legislation, saying it “degrades” the Knesset. The bill would turn democracy into a tool in the hands of the settlers, the statement read. “Netanyahu himself must vote against the law that allows for the theft of Palestinian land and cancels the court’s ruling.”