Open Zion

06.06.12

What The Evacuation of Givat Ulpana Means—And What It Doesn't

The Givat Ulpana neighborhood of Beit El is going to be evacuated.  The Regulation Bill, which would legalize settlements in the West Bank challenged by Palestinians private property claims, did not pass.  And that's good, but it doesn’t make everything all better.

This neighborhood was built illegally, yes. But Akiva Elder noted that despite the lack of official permits, there always seemed to be official approval: 

Questioned by the police, development company CEO Yoel Tsur conceded that he built the Ulpana homes even though his request for construction permits had been rejected. Asked why he built without permits, Tsur replied that since the Housing and Construction Ministry was involved in planning the neighborhood and financing its infrastructure, he sincerely believed that there was no reason not to build the homes.

And now the neighborhood is being expensively relocated to Beit El. And like other “relocations” before it the move, as Dahlia Schedlin points out, is more likely to do more to promote the settlement enterprise than the little neighborhood of Givat Ulpana would have:

He proposed instead an 11th hour compromise by which the houses would be physically relocated to a nearby part of Beit El. In other words, his compromise plan to relocate one tiny strip within the settlement would set a precedent for preserving and strengthening West Bank settlements in the long run.

More importantly, the plan involves advancing what is being called a “mechanism” for preventing similar legal claims against settlements in the future. Also on Wednesday, Netanyahu bowed to another demand of the right and formed a new committee to oversee settlement construction to diminish the authority of his defense minister, Ehud Barak. Netanyahu will head the committee himself.

Finally, it's important to realize that Bibi didn't oppose the bill because he thought it was illegal.  He did so because he thought it would harm Israel’s image abroad.  And, of course, because “we are a nation of laws that encourages settlement.  There is no contradiction between the two things.”