Israeli Officials: Knesset Must Approve West Bank Outpost Condemned by High Court

Ministers Edelstein, Sa'ar criticize High Court for rejecting state bid to prevent demolition of Ulpana; MK Ahmed Tibi: Court prevented brutal violation of the law.

The Knesset must quickly advance a law to bypass the Supreme Court and approve the West Bank outpost of Ulpana, a senior Likud MK said on Monday, following the High Court of Justice's rejection of a state bid to forestall Ulpana's demolition.

Earlier Monday, Supreme Court President Ahser Grunis along with Justices Salim Joubran and Uzi Fogelman rejected the state's request to postpone the evacuation, saying the illegal Ulpana structures would have to be evacuated by July 1.

Danny Danon - Michal Fattal
Michal Fattal

In their ruling, the justices wrote that it was especially important for the state to honor its obligations to the High Court, adding that by "accepting the state's position, according to which the need to revisit policy is a reason to reopen a finalized process, may lead to difficult consequences."

In response to the ruling, Likud MK Danny Danon released a statement according to which he had urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to advance legislation that would enable the Knesset to bypass the court's decision.

"The current High Court's ruling exactly showcases the need for High Court-bypassing laws, to pass flash legislation, and to sanction the neighborhood," Danon said, adding that it was "public officials, headed by the Likud government, are the ones to decide on essential issues of values, not the High Court which does not represent the will of the people, but their own views."

"The Ulpana neighborhood will not be evacuated," he added.

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar said that the High Court's ruling was "unjust," adding that the Knesset must consider legislation to forestall Ulpana's demolition."

Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein also criticized the High Court's ruling, saying that the outposts' residents were "normative families who took a mortgage from the state in order to live in houses built with the aid of the Housing Ministry."

"As we have warned more than once, a solution will not be found without legislation," Edelstein said, adding: "I want to see the 'hero' who would dare evacuate, among other families, the children of the Dickstein family, who lost their parents in a terror attack."

Transportation Minister Yaakov Katz called the ruling the "wrong decision, one which the public cannot stand."

"The Israeli government must begin a legislative process that would prevent the structures' demolition and would allow the neighborhood's residents to remain in their homes," Katz added, saying that the "difficult images of people evacuated from their homes mustn't repeat themselves."

In another response to the court's ruling, Ulpana residents said that it was "now the Israeli government's time to assert its sovereignty and regulate the 9,000 housing units, including the Uplana, which it built with its own hands and provided grants and stimulants to their purchasers."

United Arab List-Taal chairman Ahmed Tibi, who spoke for the Palestinian land owners in their original appeal, said the High Court in its ruling refused "the government's delusional request for the High Court to allow a brutal violation of the law."

Tibi expressed the hope that the government would uphold the decision and demolish the neighborhood, adding that the entire settlement of Beit El, of which Ulpana is a neighborhood, should also be demolished since it was in violation of international law.

Also commenting on the decision, the left-wing NGO Yesh Din, who represented the Palestinian claimants in their appeal to evacuate the outpost, congratulated the High Court for "insisting on the principles of justice and the rule of law."

Meanwhile, Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz told Haaretz on Mopnday he was looking into the possibility of assembling the Knesset before the elections to pass a bill that could approve several illegal West Bank outposts, such as Ulpana.

According to the bill, which was initially submitted by Habayit Hayehudi's Zevulun Orlev and Likud's Ze'ev Elkin, along with 18 other MKs, a Jewish residential neighborhood that had been built on land whose legal owners didn't challenge the construction within four years, would not be evacuated.

Instead, the bill allows for the courts to set compensation for the owners, either in cash or in alternate land nearby of equal value. In the bill's explanatory notes, Orlev and the 19 other MKs signed on to state that this process would only apply to communities of at least 20 families.

According to Hershkowitz's proposition the bill, which had not received official coalition sponsorship, would be submitted by the government in the period between the Knesset's dissolution and upcoming general elections in September 4.

"The High Court isn't supposed to dictate the government's policy. The Knesset's dissolution must be postponed by a day in order to flash-legislate the law, Hershkowitz said.