The Ulpana neighborhood in the West Bank settlement of Beit El
The Ulpana neighborhood in the West Bank settlement of Beit El. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded on Wednesday to the Knesset meeting in which a bill aimed at legalizing homes on the Ulpana Hill neighborhood in the West Bank settlement of Beit El - which were built on privately owned Palestinian land – was voted down.

Speaking at a press conference, Netanyahu criticized organizations that had petitioned Israel’s High Court over the matter, stating that “those who think they use the legal system to harm the settlements are mistaken, since the opposite is actually taking place.”

Netanyahu stated that the decision to relocate the neighborhood, which was illegally built on Palestinian land, was not an easy one, adding that the plan to expand Beit El would strengthen the settlement movement.

“Relocating houses is not a step that the government is happy to take,” Netanyahu told reporters, saying that “the court has ordered their relocation and we respect its decisions.”

According to Netanyahu, the Beit El would be expanded by 300 new families.

In a preliminary reading, 69 Knesset members voted against the bill, while 22 voted for it. The vote was held a day after Netanyahu announced that the government position was to oppose the bill, and threatened that any minister who supported it would be fired.

While discussions continued in the Israeli parliament, hundreds of supporters of the bill demonstrated nearby, blocking off roads in the area. Clashes broke out between the police and the protesters with at least eight of them being arrested. One of those arrested was activist Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Dozens of activists then proceeded to block roads in the entrance to Jerusalem, and the Jerusalem light rail service was disrupted for a period of time.

Read this article in Hebrew