CMEP Bulletin: Settlers Leave Ulpana, Price Tag Attacks Continue
Settlers Leave Ulpana
On Thursday the Israeli government and settlers from the Ulpana neighborhood in the Beit El settlement came one step closer to concluding a five-year saga over the homes built on private Palestinian property. The Supreme Court of Israel rul ed in May that the government must remove five apartment buildings in Ulpana by July 1. The court’s decision put Prime Minister Netanyahu in a tough spot, between the rule of law and the elements of his coalition that oppose any settlement evictions. In the end Netanyahu told Knesset members, “Israel is a democracy that observes the law, and as prime minister I am obligated to preserve the law and preserve the settlements. And I say here that there is no contradiction between the two.” Seeking to reaffirm his settler credentials after deciding to evict the Ulpana residents, on June 6 his government announced 851 new homes in various West Bank settlements, including 300 units on other parts of Beit El.
This did not wholly convince the settlers to leave Ulpana. The government negotiated with the residents to leave peacefully for months in order to avoid a confrontation between the settlers and the Israeli army when the time came for them to leave. The residents finally accepted an offer to relocate, provided their homes are allowed to come with them. The Israeli government promised them that the five apartment buildings would be moved piece by piece over the next three months to another section of Beit El that is currently being used as an army base.
On Wednesday, the Israeli border police showed up in Ulpana to ensure residents left their homes and help them move. Only one family initially refused to leave but the police “gently” carried out the father and the wife eventually left without a struggle. The biggest headaches came from the Hilltop Youth, a group of young and fierce settlement proponents. The youth took over an empty apartment, despite the effort made by Ulpana residents to stop them. The police eventually removed them, making six arrests.
Peace Now spokesman Ori Nir wrote, “the deal that was struck and the peaceful evacuation that followed show that this can be done: that Supreme Court orders can be carried out; that settlers can be moved from their homes without all hell breaking loose; that the Israel public cares very little about the troubles and tribulations of settlers who bought houses that were illegally constructed on land owned by Palestinians.”
The only remaining controversy is whether the state must remove the buildings by July 1. Netanyahu officials filed a motion with the Supreme Court on Wednesday to get an extension until November in order to relocate the apartments to the nearby land.
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