Avigdor Liberman, Foreign Minister and head of the Yisrael Beytenu party, announced Wednesday morning that his party will vote against the settlement regulatory legislation which will be put to a vote in the Knesset.
Liberman told Israel Radio Wednesday morning: “It is my intention to vote in support of the government against the regulatory law,” and indicated that his faction’s Knesset members would follow his lead.
The Yisrael Beytenu parliamentarians will also support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to evacuate the homes illegally built in the Ulpana neighborhood on Beit El, and relocate them to a nearby hill, after the prime minister warned coalition ministers on Tuesday that he would fire them if they vote for the settlement regularization bills.
“The decisions that were made satisfy everyone; those who come to develop the settlements in Judaea and Samaria, also build houses, provide compensation, also establish a ministerial committee for settlement, and provide an unequivocal decision of the Attorney General that the case will not set a [legal] precedent,” Liberman said.
Religious party Shas announced Tuesday night that its ministers will sit out Wednesday’s Knesset vote on two bills that seek to bypass High Court rulings on outpost evacuations. The announcement reverses a previous statement by Shas chairman Eli Yishai, who had said his party would vote in favor of the law.
Yishai claimed the decision to sit out the vote was unconnected to the prime minister’s threat.
The prime minister’s threat to fire uncooperative ministers effectively delivers a death blow to the bills, which were intended to give the government a way to go around a High Court order to evacuate and demolish the Givat Ulpana outpost in the West Bank.
Netanyahu announced his opposition to the measure on Sunday, saying he instead wants to move the outpost’s five homes slated for destruction to another piece of land nearby. Netanyahu has been rallying his party members to vote against the motions.
The bills now seem set to fail, or possibly be withdrawn by their sponsors.
Four ministers and deputy ministers could lose their jobs if they ignore the warning and vote in favor of the measures: Ayoob Kara (Likud), Deputy Minister for Development of the Negev and Galilee; Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi); Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud) and Gila Gamliel (Likud), Deputy Minister for the Advancement of Young People, Students and Women.
Gamliel and Kara said Tuesday night they would vote for the bills.
“The bill is the only solution to prevent the evacuation of the Givat Ulpana houses,” Kara said.
Gamliel slammed the government for forcing the citizens to pay the price of the state’s mistakes.
Edelstein said he “felt betrayed” by other ministers who had said they would support the bills, but changed their minds after Netanyahu’s threat to fire those who did.
Already on Sunday, leaders of the movement to save the Givat Ulpana neighborhood in the Beit El settlement said it would be an “honor” to be fired by Netanyahu for saving the buildings.
The legislation seeks to retroactively legalize Jewish outposts built on private Palestinian land in the West Bank — including the Givat Ulpana. The Supreme Court ordered that the five Givat Ulpana buildings in question be demolished by July 1 because they were built on private Palestinian land.
On Tuesday Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said complying with the High Court order would not set a legal precedent, easing one of the government’s main fears.
Earlier Tuesday, hundreds demonstrated outside the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem. Right-wing MKs Danny Danon (Likud) and Yaakov Katz (National Union) were said to be in attendance to lend their support.
Speaking in a Knesset meeting on the possible evacuation of the five buildings in Givat Ulpana, resident Harel Cohen yelled: “How can the government do this? Take our children’s home away?”
Minister without portfolio Benny Begin (Likud) said the government needed to take responsibility for sending the families to live in Givat Ulpana in the first place. But Begin has opposed the idea of legislation to bypass the court ruling, prompting Katz to declare on Tuesday that Begin, long a pro-settlement ideologue, was “no longer my friend.”
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