Middle East

Israel PM seeks answers to Ulpana outpost crisis

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on June 3, 2012. AFP PHOTO/POOL/LIOR MIZRAHI

JERUSALEM: Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu was on Sunday weighing plans to relocate five settler homes built on private Palestinian land as coalition hardliners upped pressure on him to retroactively legalise the outpost.

Israel's High Court has ordered the government to demolish the Ulpana outpost, often referred to as a neighbourhood of the nearby Beit El settlement, by July 1 in a move which has sparked huge opposition from the settlers and their supporters.

With only four weeks left to resolve the issue, Netanyahu on Saturday began looking at the possibility of moving the five buildings which are home to more than 50 people, an Israeli official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"The option he favours, and has been checked and is apparently possible from the engineering point of view, is to move the five buildings to an immediately adjacent area where there is no claim on the land," he told AFP late Saturday.

The legal aspects of the plan are currently examined by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, he said.

But should Weinstein reject the plan and the buildings be razed, Netanyahu pledged that "for every house destroyed in Beit El, I will build 10," the official quoted him as saying.

This week, rightwing MPs are planning to submit a bill to a vote in the plenum which would retroactively legalise Ulpana and circumvent the need for its demolition. The bill will be discussed in parliament on Wednesday.

But the move is firmly opposed by Netanyahu who would prefer to avoid such legislation, since "on the face of it, it creates more problems than it solves," the official said.

Cabinet minister Michael Eitan, who is close to the premier, on Sunday warned that passing such a law would expose Israel to "accusations of apartheid."

"Until now, the Knesset has never voted for a law which would apply Israeli law to areas of the territories where Palestinians live in Judaea and Samaria," he told public radio, using the biblical term for the West Bank.

"If the Israeli parliament, in which the Palestinians cannot vote, adopts such a text which concerns them directly, we will face accusations like those facing South Africa in the past," he warned.





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