Far-right Deputy Minister Threatens to Topple Netanyahu Over Contested Settler Outpost

Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dehan of Habayit Hayehudi said the party would quit the government unless the illegally built Amona enclave were legalized rather than dismantled, as the High Court has ruled.

Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger
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Settlers attend a protest at the illegal West Bank settlement outpost of Amona, October 20, 2016.
Settlers attend a protest at the illegal West Bank settlement outpost of Amona, October 20, 2016. Credit: Tali Mayer
Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger

Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan threatened Thursday that his party, Habayit Hayehudi, would seek to dismantle Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling coalition if the unauthorized West Bank outpost of Amona was not legalized. 

The High Court of Justice has ordered Amona, deemed illegal for being built on privately owned Palestinian land, to be evacuated by December 25.

Ben-Dahan spoke at a rally by thousands of people at Amona, a settlement near Ofra. 

He insisted it was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's responsibility to resolve the issue.

“We promise to legalize Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria, ... and if there will be no legalization for settlements, there will be no government,” he said. 

Agriculture Minister and Rural Development Minister Uri Ariel and Habayit Hayehudi Knesset members Shuli Moalem-Refaeli and Bezalel Smotrich were also at the rally, as well as Likud MKs Yehudah Glick, Amir Ohana and Oren Hazan. All these lawmakers urged the government to legalize the status of the outpost. 

The MKs said that is no other solution is found, they would promote legislation to legalize it at the beginning of the Knesset’s winter session.  

Despite what Ben-Dahan said, in the past sources in Habayit Hayehudi have made it clear that the party would not bring down the government over the evacuation of an unauthorized outpost. 

Both Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked have avoided making such threats over Amona. But at their meeting with Netanyahu last week it was decided that the government wold ask the High Court for a six month postponement of the evacuation order.  

In a meeting last week by Netanyahu with Likud activists, among them, residents of Ofra and Amona, Netanyahu cautioned that any “unwise conduct” by Israel regarding settlements before U.S. President Barack Obama steps down on January 20, could “endanger the entire settlement enterprise.”

A person who participated in the meeting but asked to remain anonymous told Haaretz that Netanyahu stressed to the settlers that he sees before him the greater good of the settlement enterprise, which he does not wish to hurt over a few homes built on private Palestinian land.