The settlement regulation bill did not pass a Knesset vote on Wednesday after 69 MKs voted against it and 22 voted in favor. A similar bill by MK Yaakov Katz (National Union) has been withdrawn but may be put forward again to put pressure on the government.
The legislation aimed to prevent the evacuation of Beit El’s Ulpana neighborhood and retroactively legalize the settlement, as well as other Jewish outposts built on privately owned Palestinian land in the West Bank.
After the vote, some 1,000 right-wing activists blocked the entrance to the Knesset building, having walked there from the protest tent they set up outside the Supreme Court. Officers and security guards tried to prevent them from entering the Knesset and several clashes were recorded. Five people were detained.
“Like a magician pulling a rabbit out of the hat, the prime minister and members of the cabinet suddenly came out with the claim that Israel will face international prosecution,” the bill’s initiator MK Zvulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) said.
Representing the coalition’s stance, Minister Benny Begin said that the bill will weaken the settlement enterprise instead of strengthening it.
He stressed that the government will continue to promote and expand settlements, but noted that the bill will not hold water and will only harm the settlement enterprise.
Many of the bill’s proponents withdrew their initial support and voted against it, largely due to Netanyahu’s dismissal threat. Members of Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu faction voted against the bill, in line with Netanyahu’s instructions, with the exception of David Rotem who voted in favor, and three MKs who chose not to attend the vote.
Among those who did not attend the vote were Shas ministers Eli Yishai and Ariel Atias, deputy ministers Yakov Litzman and Menachem Eliezer Moses (United Torah Judaism), Minister Daniel Hershkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi); Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud); and deputy ministers Gila Gamliel and Ayoob Kara (Likud).
Earlier on Wednesday, hundreds of teens blocked a Jerusalem road in protest of the government’s intention to evacuate Ulpana. They chanted “A Jew does not expel a Jew” and “Muhammad is dead” and carried signs slamming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet.
Netanyahu had decided to adhere to a High Court ruling ordering the evacuation of five homes and threatened to fire any minister or deputy minister who votes in favor of the bill.
According to the bill, any land owner in the West Bank who did not challenge construction on the land he claimed to own within four years would lose the legal right to do so.