Voting down a bill that would have retroactively regularized illegal settlements in the Givat Ulpana outpost was a difficult but necessary step, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a press conference on Wednesday.

“Israel is a democratic state where we are obliged to uphold the rule of law,” Netanyahu said shortly after the Knesset rejected the bill by a vote of 69 to 22.

The prime minister, who opposed the bill and has suggested an alternative plan, said it was “not an easy day” for Israel because the five buildings at Givat Ulpana would be torn down. But he also said that the Knesset’s decision would ultimately prove a boon for the settlement movement.

“Had the law passed, it would hurt the settlements [in the long term], whereas my proposed plan will strengthen the settlement movement,” he said. Noting his plans to construct 300 new housing units at the Beit El settlement in response to the demolition of Givat Ulpana — which is a neighborhood inside Beit El — Netanyahu said, “Rather than crippling Beit El, we’re extending it and making it stronger.”

The move was a signal, the prime minister said, that while his government would abide by court rulings like the one that obligated it to demolish Givat Ulpana, efforts to use the courts to undermine settlement construction would actually result in the strengthening of the settlements.

“There is no government that supports or will support settlements more than the government that I head,” he said.