JERUSALEM (JTA) — A plan to relocate five apartment buildings from the Ulpana neighborhood on the outskirts of the Beit El settlement in the West Bank is not a precedent for similar situations, Israel’s attorney general told Benjamin Netanyahu.
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein provided an official response Tuesday to the prime minister’s plan. Under the plan, the five apartment buildings, home to about 30 families, would be moved several hundred yards to land that is not privately owned by Palestinians, instead of being razed as ordered by the Supreme Court. In addition, 10 new housing units would be constructed in the settlement for every building moved.
Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in September that the neighborhood should be razed, siding with a lawsuit filed by Palestinians who said they owned the land.
Weinstein said Tuesday that the main legal problem facing the plan is that the buildings would be moved to a military zone and land there can be used for only security purposes, which this move is not, according to Ynet.
The decision comes a day before a scheduled vote in the Knesset plenum on a bill that would override the Supreme Court decision to remove the buildings. The legislation would retroactively legalize buildings built on contested land if the owner does not challenge the construction within four years.
During a heated meeting Tuesday of the Knesset’s State Control Committee to discuss the settlement regulation bill, Likud minister Benny Begin told lawmakers that Netanyahu cannot promise an end to the demolition of Jewish homes in the West Bank.
Also on Tuesday, Netanyahu told two families living in Ulpana that the bill, if passed, will harm settlements,
"Even though for some people the High Court decision over Ulpana is hard, we have to respect it," Netanyahu said, Haaretz reported. "The alternative, in the form of the bill, is likely to achieve the opposite: the evacuation of the neighborhood, and damage to the settlements. We are a government that respects the rule of law and strengthens settlement, and there is no contradiction between the two things."
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Office announced late Tuesday that Netanyahu would fire any government minister who votes for the bill, since the official position of the government is to oppose the measure.