A demonstration at Beit El's Ulpana neighborhood, April 22, 2012.
A demonstration at Beit El's Ulpana neighborhood, April 22, 2012. Photo by Gili Cohen-Magen
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's balancing act during the outposts affair proves what a good tightrope walker he is. Netanyahu is trying to do the impossible.

He wants to be depicted as a peace-loving and law-abiding leader who is faithful to the rules of democracy. But he also seeks every possible way to legalize outposts while stealing privately owned land and sidestepping decisions by the High Court of Justice. Instead of ending the unbridled campaign to keep alive the Migron outpost and Beit El's Ulpana neighborhood, the prime minister approves shenanigans against High Court rulings.

The prime minister compelled coalition members on Wednesday to vote against a private bill submitted by MK Yaakov Katz (National Union ). It calls for recognizing houses that were built with government permission or assistance on private Palestinian land and allowing the owners to seek compensation.

But Netanyahu also reached an agreement with MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi ) for the vote on his bill to be delayed for two weeks. The proposal would leave settlers' homes in place "only" when a petition is submitted more than four years after construction. Again, the owners would be able to seek compensation. At the same time, the prime minister instructed Defense Minister Ehud Barak to freeze preparations for tearing down the houses in Ulpana for two weeks.

Every day such bills reach the Knesset is not merely a day of contempt for the court and parliament. It's a day when Israel's foreign relations are harmed. The Knesset does not have the authority to legislate laws for the territories, which are not under Israeli sovereignty. Netanyahu's broad coalition must give him parliamentary backing for implementing the High Court's rulings. The Kadima and Atzmaut factions cannot merely vote against a bill. They must demand that it be removed from the agenda immediately as a condition for their continued partnership in the coalition.

Therefore Barak's remark on Wednesday that "carrying out the High Court's decisions must go together with strengthening Beit El" is worrisome. Respecting a High Court ruling is not conditional on anything - certainly not on bolstering the settlements.

Read this article in Hebrew.