Netanyahu seeking delay in Ulpana outpost demolition

Beit El's illegal outpost of Ulpana near Jerusalem is due to be demolished. (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)

JERUSALEM (JWN and agencies)—Under pressure from hard-liners in his government coalition, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu intends to ask the High Court of Justice to delay the implementation of its order to demolish 30 homes built illegally in the Ulpana outpost adjacent to Beit El.

The court had ordered the homes removed by the end of April, because they were built on privately owned Palestinian land. Ulpana is an outpost adjacent to the settlement of Beit El, between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

Settlement proponents have lobbied intensively against the court’s ruling last year and have urged the government to legalize the Ulpana homes retroactively. Last week the government did so with regard to three other outposts: Rehalim, Bruchin, and Sansana.

The Netanyahu government has enforced a policy of demolishing unauthorized Jewish homes built on private Palestinian property. Although Ulpana residents have argued that the land was purchased from Palestinian landowners, the government and the High Court do not recognize the legality of the sale.

In 2008, the Palestinian landowners won a petition to the High Court of Justice against Ulpana and the state accordingly promised to raze the five apartment buildings in question in which 30 families live.

Netanyahu told Army Radio on Tuesday that the state would ask the court for additional time to pursue alternatives.

Earlier this week, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is responsible for construction in the West Bank, said that if the Ulpana homes could not be retroactively legalized, the state could build new homes for the families elsewhere in Beit El.

Attorney Michael Sfard, who represents the Palestinian land owners, called Netanyahu’s request a sacrifice of the rule of law to politics. “The decision of the state to renege on its own obligation to evacuate at the last minute, despite the fact that it had a full year to prepare for the evacuation, is a worrisome deference to political considerations,” he said.