Israeli Bill to Okay West Bank Outposts May Reach Knesset, Despite Netanyahu's Objection

Legislation would allow the military to remove settlers from their property only if there has been an order to do so - based on evidence of Palestinian ownership.

A bill geared at retroactively approving West Bank outposts that had been built on private Palestinian land may be brought to a vote in the Knesset this week, despite the objection of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government.

Netanyahu's coalition leadership is expected to allow MKs a free vote on the subject, while government ministers will be required to oppose the legislation.

migron - Moti Milrod - October 12 2011
Moti Milrod

Earlier this month, the debate of the bill, which would condition eviction of Jewish settlers from land purportedly owned by individual Palestinians on a court ruling, was postponed by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation for three months.

The bill would allow the military to remove settlers from their property only if there has been an order to do so - based on evidence of Palestinian ownership of the land - by a court authorized to deal with such cases.

Speaking following that postponement, one of the legislation's sponsors, Yaakov Katz (National Union) said that Netanyahu "ordered the ministerial committee to postpone the debate by three months to allow the uprooting of Migron. I have therefore decided to submit the legislation to the Knesset on Wednesday."

Speaking during the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan asked that cabinet ministers receive a free vote if the bill reaches the Knesset floor, with Minister Benny Begin answering that ministers would have to toe the cabinet line and oppose it.

Erdan accused Begin of blocking the debate on the matter in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, causing a situation in which the ministers are prevented from voicing their opinions on the issue.

Netanyahu eventually halted the debate, saying that in a few days a panel geared at furthering solutions for West Bank outposts that would elicit as little harm to those settlements as possible will begin its work in a few days, announcing that it would be headed by former Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy.

Coalition sources estimated over the weekend that the bill's sponsors will be pressed to garner a majority in the Knesset without the ministers' support even if Likud MKs support the legislation, advising them to consider whether a Knesset vote was wise since such a move could topple the legislation.

Coalition chairman and Likud MK Zeev Elkin said last week that he would allow a free vote only if the cabinet would not work toward advancing a real solution concerning the approval of outpost construction.

Last week, Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said the Migron outpost in the West Bank, one of the outposts the new bill seeks to approve, was "eternal" and would not suffer the fate of Amona, the settlement where in 2006 security forces demolished nine houses.

The High Court of Justice has ordered Migron evacuated by the end of March. Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has opposed any legislation that would address cases that have already been ruled on by the courts.

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