Israel has quashed legislation that would have stopped the eviction of Jewish settlers from an outpost on private Palestinian land. But Prime Minister Netanyahu has promised to build 300 new homes in the West Bank.
The Israeli Knesset on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly against legislation seeking to circumvent a Supreme Court ruling and legalize a Jewish settlement built on private Palestinian land, sparking outrage among members of the country's settler movement.
Parliamentarian Zevulun Orlev of the ultranationalist Jewish home party proposed the legislation, which sought to give the affected Palestinians monetary compensation instead of returning their land. The 120-seat Knesset voted down the proposal 69-22, with some 29 representatives not attending the vote. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition controls 94 seats in parliament.
The Israeli Supreme Court had ruled that the Ulpana outpost was illegal and ordered its five apartment buildings vacated and demolished by July 1. Some 30 Jewish families comprising around 142 people live in the outpost.
Some 2,000 people gathered outside of the Knesset to demonstrate in favor of the legislation, including 250 settlers who completed a 3-day march from Ulpana to Jerusalem. The protesters chanted "Jews do not evict Jews," voicing anger over the opposition of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party.
"Today we saw that the Likud does not just talk about demolition it also carries out demolition and destruction," Michael Ben Ari from the National Union faction said, accusing the prime minister of "beginning to destroy and kill" the settler movement."
Settlement expansion in West Bank
Netanyahu had argued that the Supreme Court would strike down the bill if it became law and that passing the legislation would spark international outrage. The prime minister reportedly threatened to fire any cabinet member who voted in favor of the proposal.
"The law rejected today would have harmed the settlement movement," Netanyahu said after the vote. "There is no government that would support the settler movement more than the one I head."
He has proposed moving the settlement brick for brick to a military zone near the Beit El settlement. Netanyahu also vowed to build 300 new homes in the West Bank, in an apparent bid to appease Jewish settlers there.
The prime minister recently expanded his coalition to include the main opposition Kadima, in a move to reduce his dependency far right hardliners who support the continued expansion of settlements.
Peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians broke down for three years over the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority has demanded a stop to settlement construction before agreeing to new negotiations, but Israel has said it will only accept talks if there are no preconditions.
slk/sej (AP, AFP, Reuters)