Damning new Israeli Police evidence surrounding the original decision to start building in Beit El’s Ulpana area poses serious problems for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party, who have openly campaigned and petitioned against the removal of the settlement.Despite the Israeli High Court on Monday upholding its original decision that the unrecognised settlement outpost of Ulpana is illegal and must be demolished, Netanyahu and his colleagues spoke on Monday of their determination to find a solution for the settlers which would avoid this happening.
However Yoel Tsur, the CEO of the company which was one of the original contractors in building the community, admitted to police during an interview three years ago that the settlement was built on land whose purchase was never finalized. Settler leaders knew from the start that the land was privately owned by Palestinians, which counters their claims that settlers bought their houses in good faith.
In 2008 after petitions to the Israeli High Court and complaints to Israeli Police for trespassing, Tsur was interviewed by Police where this information was revealed.
It has also come to light that construction began on the site 2 years prior to the claimed legal purchase of the land, and that this purchase only covered one lot of land which was not enough for the entire outpost.
When asked how such a monumental mistake could be made with ownership and designation of Palestinian land, Tsur simply responded by saying it was an accident.
On further questioning the CEO confirmed that he had no knowledge as to whether the site had been allocated building permits or had an approved masterplan.
In 2010 police decided to close the case on the grounds that no one had committed any crime. The Yesh Din organization appealed that decision to the state prosecution which is still considering the matter.
Israel’s Attorney General has pre-empted any moves to overturn Monday’s Court decision by stating his objection to introducing any by-law legislation to get around the Court’s decision. Despite this, spokesmen have indicated that the Prime Minister will make a decision when all options have been reviewed.
Netanyahu and his Likud colleagues have suggested some extra protection for the settlers if it could be proved that they had built in good faith, that is, not knowing the land was obtained illegally.
However, Thursday’s revelation poses a problem for the Prime Minister, and also raises the question as to what evidence is still to be discovered about all unauthorized outposts and settlements.
Monday’s Israeli High Court ruling confirmed its earlier findings and imposed a deadline of 1 July for the razing of the settlement after the Israeli State had petitioned the courts for reconsideration of the matter.
Chief Justice Asjer Grunis spoke of “upholding the principles of law” as he delivered the court’s decision. However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is being urged to explore additional options by members of the right.
Netanyahu’s own party, Likud, is adamant that a solution should be found to stop the razing of the unauthorised outpost with the Prime Minister himself stating “this is a serious situation and we are considering it in full”
The newly formed Likud and Kadima coalition has 94 seats in the 120 seat assembly, which some analysts say creates a strong partnership. However the manner in which the coalition was formed has led other parties to describe it as fragile and bad for Kadima.