The defeating of a bill by Israel’s Parliament that would have legalized the settlement of 30 Israeli families in five different apartment buildings in the West Bank;s Ulpana Hill, has generated a number of angry protests.
Israel’s 120-seat Parliament struck the bill with a 69 to 22 vote. The settlement area must be cleared by July 1.
Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu says his sympathizes with frustrated settlers: “I understand your pain. I share it.” But he also reminded them of what he believes to be just: “Israel is a democracy that observes the law, and as a prime minister I am obligated to preserve the law and preserve the settlements, and I say that there is no contradiction between the two.” The settlements, he claims, will be relocated to another part of Beit El. Additional housing for 300 families will also be established.
Despite the overwhelming Parliamentary majority, two Israeli ministers had said they would have supported the bill. Yuli Edelstein – Israel’s Likud Party Minister – and Science and Technology Minister, Daniel Hershkowitz of the Jewish Home party, both made affirmative “public declarations”, but did not vote.
On Monday, many settlers gathered on the outskirts of the settlements near Ramallah to protest. On Wednesday, more banded together oustside the Parliament and Supreme Court. Isabel Kershner of the New York Times reports: “[They] tried to block roads and burned tires.” Dani Dayan, leader of a prominent Israeli settlement group, said: “This is over much more than five buildings.” He believes that the government must decide whether it will be about “Israeli sovereignty over the land of Israel” or “the un-Jewish path of expelling Jews from their homes.”
The Supreme Court has ruled that additional settlement homes – Amona, Mitzpe, and Assaf – will also be broken apart by August 1.
Still, Jewish protestors and settlers maintain that the West Bank (or Judea and Samaria, as they refer to it by biblical terms) is their rightful inheritance. Professor Avraham Diskin of Thhe Hebrew University of Jerusalem painted Netanyahu in a positive light for them. He said Netanyahu “is [just] trying to tamp down the fire . . .” Netanyahu himself says that he is not taking an offensive stance to the Israeli’s cause: “There is no government that supports . . .settlements more than my government.”
The Jewish settlements remain a significant issue, core to the currentIsraeli-Palestinian disputes. But negotiations between the two groups came to a halt three years ago, and Palestinians have disavowed any certain resurrection of peace talks “until Israel freezes settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.” Writes Kershner, “[Palestinians] would not engage on Israel’s terms by distinguishing between so-called legal and illegal settlements.”
Although Israel regards the West Bank as a heavily conflicted region, the Palestinians and the world at large find the settlements to be an infringment of global law.