West Bank outpost of Jabel Artis, near the settlement of Beit El - Tess Scheflan
West Bank outpost of Jabel Artis, near the settlement of Beit El. Photo by Tess Scheflan
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet on Wednesday that he is working to legalize the Ulpana neighborhood in the settlement of Beit El in the West Bank, along with three other illegal outposts in the territory.

Netanyahu's comments come against the backdrop of a fierce government rift surrounding the evacuation order of settlers from a house in a Palestinian neighborhood in Hebron.

The state had previously committed to evacuate the Ulpana outpost by May, but on Wednesday, Netanyahu informed the cabinet that he had asked the Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to find a solution that would legalize the outpost and prevent its demolition. Netanyahu said that in the near future, following the recommendations of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, he will ask the government to legalize the status of three settlements – Bruchin, Sansana, and Rachalim.

Netanyahu's effort to legalize outposts built on private Palestinian land that was launched last October caused fierce debates between the prosecution and the various legal advisers of cabinet ministers.

It is still unclear whether there is a connection between Netanyahu's announcement regarding Ulpana and the Hebron house affair, which caused a fiery debate between Deputy Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Barak.

During late night discussions on Tuesday, a senior defense official said that Barak, along with a ministerial committee, agreed that a Hebron house that has been occupied by settlers for nearly two weeks should be evacuated by April 25.

Ya’alon, who participated in the special ministerial meeting on Tuesday night, criticized Barak's decision and said that authority over issues regarding Judea and Samaria settlements must be taken away from Barak, and given to a committee of ministers.  “Barak is not solving any problems or signing any urban building plans.”

“Ehud Barak is acting against the government and against the settlements in Judea and Samaria, all that he is doing is fanning the flames,” Ya'alon said Wednesday during a closed discussion.

"It is imperative to check that the settler’s documents of sale are not counterfeit. If it turns out that they are in order, the purchase must be approved and the settlers allowed entry. This is not a national, or a defense issues, the property rights need to be checked. Why does the defense minister claim that such a check will take weeks when it can be done in a few days?”

Barak fired back at Ya'alon on Wednesday, claiming that the deputy prime minister is making comments against him out of political considerations.

“Unfortunately, Minister Ya’alon is combining cheap political concerns with defense decisions, harming the government’s ability to protect democracy and law and order," officials close to Barak said.