Knesset votes down bill to retroactively legalize outposts

A bill to retroactively legalize West Bank outposts was voted down by the Knesset.

Wednesday afternoon’s vote on a preliminary reading of the bill was 69 lawmakers against the bill and 22 for it. The legislation would have retroactively legalized buildings built on contested land if the owner does not challenge the construction within four years.

No government ministers voted for the bill, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced Monday that any government minister who votes for the bill will lose his job.

Several Likud ministers and the head of the Jewish Home party had threatened to vote for the bill, but reportedly did not.

The bill would have saved from demolition five apartment buildings from the Ulpana neighborhood on the outskirts of the Beit El settlement.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein late Tuesday night approved a plan put forward by Netanyahu, which would move the five apartment buildings housing about 30 families 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. A July 1 deadline has been set for the razing of the buildings.

Netanyahu reportedly presented Weinstein’s legal opinion on his plan before the vote. Weinstein also indicated, however, that the decision to allow the moving of Ulpana could not be used as a precedent for other contested outposts.

Dozens of demonstrators, mostly teens, blocked a road in Jerusalem next to the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on Wednesday protesting against the possible evacuation of Ulpana. The demonstration came after a nearly three day protest march from Ulpana to Jerusalem.