Netanyahu faces backlash over plan to evacuate settlers
RIGHT-WING members of Israel’s ruling coalition are threatening a parliamentary revolt after prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared he would accept a high court ruling to evacuate 30 Jewish families from homes built illegally in the West Bank on private Palestinian land.
The court ruled last month that five large buildings housing about 200 settlers in the Ulpana neighbourhood in the Beit El settlement, north of Jerusalem, would have to be evacuated by July 1st.
Anticipating a backlash from his right-wing flank, Mr Netanyahu attempted to soften the blow by promising that the families would relocate to state land a few hundred metres away and vowing that the government would build 10 new homes for every settler home evacuated.
The controversial plan still needs the final approval from the attorney general, who is examining whether West Bank land confiscated by the army can be used to house the Ulpana families. It is also unclear whether the buildings can be taken apart and reconstructed at the new site. Mr Netanyahu seeks to avoid at all costs sending bulldozers to demolish the homes.
Right-wing members of the coalition and settler leaders have warned that the plan could set a precedent affecting up to 9,000 Jewish homes it is believed have been constructed on private Palestinian land in the West Bank. They have introduced legislation to bypass the high court ruling.
The Bill would retroactively legalise settler homes on Palestinian land and require compensation to be paid to the Palestinian landowners. However, Mr Netanyahu argued that such a Bill would prompt an international backlash with critics labelling Israel an apartheid state.
Beit El residents have set up a protest camp opposite the prime minister’s office and plan to march from the settlement to the Knesset parliament, arriving on Wednesday to coincide with the vote on the Bill.
Coalition chairman, Knesset member Ze’ev Elkin from Mr Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party, warned that removing the homes would be a traumatic event with severe political ramifications.
“Netanyahu’s decision is a serious mistake which violates his promises to those who voted for the nationalist faction,” he said.
Science minister Daniel Hershkowitz warned that left-wing groups like Peace Now would inundate the high court with petitions over outposts or settlements believed to be built on private Palestinian land if Ulpana is evacuated.