Israel's AG Approves Netanyahu's Plan to Relocate Ulpana Neighborhood

PM announces he will head new ministerial committee which will take over Barak's authorities on matters concerning settlement construction; Lieberman says will support Netanyahu's plan.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein approved late Tuesday a plan by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to remove the Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El and transfer the houses to a nearby former army base.

The Prime Minister's Office said that at the meeting overnight between the two, Weinstein told Netanyahu of his legal opinion concerning a mechanism that would defend future claims against settlement building. In addition, the PMO said this legal opinion supports the prime minister's demands.

According to Netnayahu's plan, the five houses built on Palestinian land in Ulpana neighborhood will be removed and relocated to military territory in the Beit El settlement, 300 new housing units will be built on military territory in settlements, and a mechanism will be formed to deal with future Palestinian claims to land in petitions to the High Court.

In addition, Netanyahu responded to the demands of ministers, including Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon, to establish a ministerial committee on settlements that would take over the authorities of Defense Minister Ehud Barak on matters concerning the approval of settlement building. Netanyahu announced on Wednesday morning that he himself will head the committee. "The solution we found strengthens settlements and preserves the rule of law," said Netanyahu.

Meanwhile, the Knesset is due to vote on a bill geared at sanctioning illegal West Bank outposts on Wednesday. Netanyahu and his advisers will present Weinstein's legal opinion before the government, and in particular before Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who announced Tuesday that his party's vote depends on that opinion.

According to the bill, Jewish residential neighborhoods of more than 20 families that are built on land whose legal owners had not challenged the construction within four years would not be evacuated.

Netanyahu announced Tuesday that he would oppose the bill and any member of his government that votes in its favor would be fired.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced Wednesday that his Yisrael Beiteinu party will vote with the government against the bill, which will be voted on later Wednesday.

"Anyone with common sense would vote in favor of building new houses in Judea and Samaria, and establishing a committee on settlements in accordance with the attorney general's decision that does not set a precedent for additional, future evacuations," said Lieberman.

"Yisrael Beitenu can live with these moves, and as such it is our intention to vote together with the government," he announced.

The Yisrael Beiteinu chairman noted that he held numerous meetings on Tuesday evening with numerous party members from West Bank settlements and that a majority of them support the decision that was reached. According to Lieberman, Yisrael Beiteinu had been searching for solutions since the beginning of the saga, and that the proposal is respectable and acceptable.

Read this article in Hebrew.

Settlers at the start of a three-day march from Ulpana to Jerusalem, June 4, 2012.
Emil Salman