Netanyahu to Ministers: Lower Media Profile on Future of West Bank Outpost

Following premier's request at Likud ministers' meet, Deputy PM Silvan Shalom says on his Facebook page: We will work to find a way to leave neighborhood in place, settlers in their homes.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked his cabinet on Sunday to lower the media profile of a debate on the future of the West Bank outpost of Ulpana, just as a chief minister pledged to find a solution that would leave its residents in place.

The future of the contentious neighborhood of the West Bank settlement of Beit El prompted several heated statements by chief Netanyahu ministers over the weekend.

Netanyahu - Emil Salman
Emil Salman

On Saturday, aides to Defense Minister Ehud Barak released a statement accusing two cabinet members, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon of adopting the rhetoric of the extreme right in their objection to a possible move to evacuate Ulpana.

Speaking during the weekly meeting of Likud ministers in Jerusalem on Sunday, Netanyahu, ostensibly referring to the heated media debate, instructed cabinet ministers to lower their media profile, saying that a solution to the issue will be reached.

However, immediately following the meeting, chief minister and Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom released a statement on his Facebook page, saying that "the settlement flag is the central flag of the Likud movement, and the evacuation of settlements is simply out of the question."

"Solutions should be found like compensating land owners, if that is required, or legislation. We will continue to act in a manner which leaves the neighborhood in place and the settlers in their homes," the statement added.

Speaking earlier Sunday to Army Radio, Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon criticized what he said was Barak's politically motivated move to evacuate Ulpana, saying that "those who hide behind the rule of law harm the rule of law."

"I hope the prime minister will find an adequate solution that won't impair the rule of law and the authority of the Israeli government," Ya'alon said.

On Friday, on a visit to Ulpana, Katz expressed support for the settlers and criticized the defense minister. "If Barak acts against the government's stance, the prime minister will have an obligation to fire him," said the transportation minister, adding, "He took the Defense Ministry and turned it into a political tool at the expense of the settlers. There are other means of gathering votes."

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked the State Prosecutor’s Office to examine whether a request can be lodged with the High Court to further delay the evacuation order.