Residents of West Bank's Ulpana Neighborhood Agree to Quiet Evacuation

Under agreement, a nearby Border Police base will eventually be evacuated and annexed to Beit El, and 300 apartments will be built there.

The Ministerial Committee on Settlement Affairs convenes today to approve a compromise agreement on the future of the families due to be evacuated from their homes in Beit El's Ulpana neighborhood, which were built on privately owned Palestinian land.

Under the agreement, reached between Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan and Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed, the rabbi of the Ulpana neighborhood families, the residents will leave their homes next week without stirring up disturbances and move to a temporary compound being prepared for them in the Binyamin Regional Brigade base. Eventually, a nearby Border Police base, comprising 18 dunams (4.5 acres ) of state land, will be evacuated and annexed to Beit El, and 300 apartments will be built there.

The state reiterated the commitment made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that this evacuation does not constitute a precedent for the future, and that the state will ask the High Court of Justice for some more time to allow the houses to be dismantled, rather than demolished by bulldozers.

The court ruled last month that the families must be out and the homes removed by July 1.

Though some settler leaders and people close to Melamed had been taking a militant stance on the issue, in the end the settler community yielded.

"We convened in the hope that God would rescind from us difficult and evil decrees," Melamed said yesterday. "We debated whether to pursue a protest or an agreement. No path leads us to the perfect solution."

In essence, the negotiations in recent weeks held by the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria, Melamed and Erdan were fictitious. The settlers agreed to evacuate quietly, which is what they wanted in any case, and in return got promises they'd already gotten - although this time there was also a promise to keep them.

Two issues still remain hanging. One is a promise made by the government to move the Border Police base being evacuated to Migron, whose residents are also slated to be moved, so that there will at least be a "Jewish presence" there. Legally, the government can appropriate any land for military purposes, but the Supreme Court has already ruled that "military purposes" must indeed be strictly military, without mixing in any other considerations.

The second issue is the effort by settlers to secure permission to build homes on land confiscated for military purposes in 1970 and 1978. Many lands within the Beit El city limits are like that, and to date the State Prosecutor's Office refuses to allow construction there.

Once the Ulpana compromise is approved, the focus will turn to Givat Assaf, an illegal outpost also meant to be evacuated by the end of next week.