As bill to legalize West Bank neighborhood fails, Netanyahu promises new settlement construction

By Barak Ravid

After the Knesset voted down a bill aimed at legalizing homes on the Ulpana Hill neighborhood in the West Bank settlement of Beit El, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias decided on Wednesday to order the construction of an additional 551 housing units in West Bank settlements.

Atias said that these housing units were in addition to the 300 housing units in Bet El announced earlier on Wednesday.

Of the 551 new housing units to be constructed in West Bank settlements, 117 will be built in Ariel; 92 in Ma’ale Adumim; 144 in Adam; and 84 in Kiryat Arba.

Netanyahu stated that the decision to relocate the neighborhood, which was illegally built on Palestinian land, was not an easy one, adding that the plan to expand Beit El would strengthen the settlement movement.

“Relocating houses is not a step that the government is happy to take,” Netanyahu told reporters, saying that “the court has ordered their relocation and we respect its decisions.”

In a preliminary reading, 69 Knesset members voted against the bill, while 22 voted for it. The vote was held a day after Netanyahu announced that the government position was to oppose the bill, and threatened that any minister who supported it would be fired.

While discussions continued in the Israeli parliament, hundreds of supporters of the bill demonstrated nearby, blocking off roads in the area. Clashes broke out between the police and the protesters with at least eight of them being arrested. One of those arrested was activist Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Dozens of activists then proceeded to block roads in the entrance to Jerusalem, and the Jerusalem light rail service was disrupted for a period of time.