A rumbling volatile disagreement has been running in the Israeli news for the last few weeks, involving the legal status and possible evacuation and/or demolition of the Givat HaUlpana neighbourhood in the settlement of Bet El.
The reason I haven’t blogged about this earlier is that the issue is so complicated, with politics, emotion, legalities and bureaucracy, that I simply haven’t been able to decide how to get a grip on the subject.
Law enforcement authorities try to determine the legality of the prime minister’s plan to relocate the five disputed apartment blocks • Right-wing lawmakers to push legislation that would retroactively authorize the homes.
More from the article:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is actively engaging law enforcement officials and his own coalition in an effort to cement support for his plan to relocate the homes of 30 families in the Ulpana neighborhood of Beit El, just weeks before a court-mandated deadline for their evacuation expires.
On Sunday, Netanyahu said the “outpost arrangement bill” (also known as the High Court bypass bill) would effectively overturn the court order, but would put Israel in legal jeopardy internationally. He asked Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein to make sure his proposed solution did not set a precedent that would endanger the entire settlement enterprise.
During their meeting, Netanyahu instructed Weinstein to come up with a legal mechanism that would prevent anti-settlement activists from citing the Ulpana case in future petitions to the High Court.
“If we capitulate in Beit El, we would have to relinquish several thousand more housing units,” Netanyahu said. “I refuse to set this kind of precedent. I demand a solution, otherwise, there will be no other choice but to move ahead with the outpost arrangement bill [which would retroactively legalize the Ulpana homes].”
I am very glad that Netanyahu has finally seen the light with regards to the danger of a hyper-active judicial system which constantly interferes in the legislative branch of the Israeli government, and which in almost every case sides with the left and hard-left. On the other hand, even if legislation is written and enacted, it is no guarantee that it will be executed. I mentioned Migron in my title for a reason. There too a compromise had been reached, and that was overturned by the Supreme Court. One could rightly ask whose job is it to legislate after all? It is certainly not the court’s, but they obviously disagree.
Back to the Israel Hayom article:
Netanyahu over the weekend announced his plans to relocate the disputed apartment blocks and build more housing units to compensate for the evacuation. On Sunday he reiterated his commitment to the settlement enterprise, saying there would soon be “a thousand more residents in Beit El.”
Netanyahu explained that his idea of constructing ten homes for every home that is relocated would apply to each housing unit in each of the five disputed buildings. This would result in 300 new housing units in Beit El – 10 for each family (rather than for each block). These units would be available for “immediate occupancy.”
It’s a nice idea in theory but I cannot see it being put into practice. First of all, can you imagine the outcry from the Supreme Court, Peace Now and their international fellow-travellers at the thought of 300 new settlement homes? Secondly, there is not enough land available in Bet El to construct so many homes. This is simply wishful thinking or political play-acting by Netanyahu.
The High Court of Justice ordered the state to demolish the five structures in Beit El’s Ulpana neighborhood by July 1, saying they had been built on privately owned Palestinian land. The court also refused the state’s request to hold further hearings on the case. The state had previously vowed to voluntarily remove the homes by May 1 but failed to follow through on its promise largely due to fear of political fallout.
Since these houses have been built within Bet El, there is no way that the land, even if proved to be privately owned by Palestinians, will be handed back to those Palestinians for them to build within the settlement. The only solution will be compensation. In which case, why do the buildings need to be demolished at all? These are not “3 caravans and a goat” type hilltop outposts. This is a community of several apartment blocks. Why can’t they be left in place and compensation paid to the Palestinian owners?
Israel Matzav has an interesting post on this subject, explaining the possibility that the developers knew the land was privately owned, but he adds the following (the blog-owner is a lawyer so he speaks from experience):
Most Western countries have a property law concept called adverse possession, which says that if you are in possession of a piece of property for a certain number of years, even if you had no right to be there in the first place, you have ‘earned’ the right to stay there. (By the way, the concept is an ancient Jewish concept that dates to the Mishna – see Bava Bathra Chapter 3). Given that construction on this property started in 1998 with government approval, and that the Supreme Court case was first filed in 2008, the people who have lived there since the early part of the last decade ought to be allowed to stay. The government ought to step up to the plate and compensate the Arab land owners to the extent that they can prove their ownership. Throwing people out of their homes under these circumstances makes no sense.
Returning to the Israel Hayom article, the A-G is already raising problems with Netanyahu’s plans:
Although the attorney-general is still deliberating Netanyahu’s plan, according to an Army Radio report, Weinstein has already expressed certain reservations about the new site of the homes, a defunct military base. Weinstein has apparently questioned the legality of constructing civilian homes on property that has been originally designated for military use.
Meanwhile, politicians are already bracing for Netanyahu’s decision. The hard-core members of the Likud are lobbying the party’s ministers to support the various arrangement bills, while the Prime Minister’s Office is trying to have the measures shelved. Relations between Coalition Chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) and Netanyahu appear to have been strained as a result of the Ulpana affair as well.
Read the rest of the article to learn more about the politicking that is going on.
Here are some more articles on the Givat haUlpana crisis: