Contested Ulpana buildings to be moved

Five apartment buildings in the Ulpana neighborhood of a West Bank settlement will be relocated under a plan by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The buildings in Beit El, home to about 30 families, would be moved several hundred yards to land that is not privately owned by Palestinians, under the plan Netanyahu presented to his Cabinet on June 3. The plan to relocate the actual buildings, instead of razing them and rebuilding new ones, would save the government money.

The plan requires the approval of Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.

Israel’s Supreme Court ruled last September that the neighborhood should be razed, siding with a lawsuit filed by Palestinians who said they owned the land.

As part of the plan, Netanyahu said 10 housing units would be built in the settlement for every one moved. The change requires the attorney general’s approval. Another part of the plan would require the state to fight aggressively any future legal petitions on the issue.

Netanyahu reportedly presented the plan in an effort to avoid legislation on the issue, which he said would not help the settlements and other West Bank neighborhoods facing similar evacuation or destruction.

“Our policy is to bolster the settlements while adhering to the law,” Netanyahu said.  — jta