Several senior ministers in Benjamin Netanyahu's Right-wing coalition are threatening to dismantle the government and force early general elections if 30 Isreali homes on a West Bank settlement are demolished.
Gilad Erdan, the environment minister, and Yisrael Katz, the minister for transport, have joined ranks with Netanyahu's deputy, Moshe Ya'alon, against Ehud Barak, the minister of defence, who is overseeing the evacuation of the Ulpana outpost.
Speaking at a cultural event in the country's south on Saturday, Ya'alon appeared resigned to the government's inevitable collapse, laying the blame for its disintegration squarely on Barak, whom he claims has "taken the defense ministry and made it a political tool at the expense of the settlers".
Barak, formerly leader of Israel's Labour party, responded by accusing Ya'alon and Katz, who are both members of the prime minister's right wing Likud party, of succumbing to "Feiglinism" - a reference to Moshe Feiglin, an extremist, right wing spokesperson for the settler movement.
Reacting to a suggestion by Erdan that the defence minister is acting on a limb without the prime minister's support, a spokesperson for Netanyahu confirmed that he is indeed seeking a way to avoid the evacuation: "The prime minister is working with the ministry of defence and the justice ministry to find a legal solution which allows them [Ulapana residents] to stay. There has been no decision yet but we are expecting to reach one in the coming days."
Barak responded to the groundswell of opposition to the demolition of the Ulapana units on Sunday, insisting, "we are responsible for the rule of law, we are responsible for Israel being a normative country among advanced nations and we are additionally responsible for somehow finding a solution for the Ulpana neighborhood."
The first permanent housing blocks of what is now Ulpana were built on a hillside next to Beit El settlement ten years ago. A series of demolition orders have been issued by the Israeli government on the illegal structures since, none of which have been executed. Only when the Palestinian owner of the land launched a case against five of the latest apartment buildings in Israel's high court did the Netanyahu government vow to demolish the buildings by May 1. The High Court closed its file on the case as a result of the government's promise.
Hagit Ofran, from the Israeli human rights group Peace Now, believes the pressure imposed by Likud ministers in their efforts to prevent the evacuation reveals that the Netanyahu government is dominated by the nationalistic settler movement.
"We expect the government will evict the outpost because there is no argument that it is built on privately owned Palestinian land," Ofran said, adding, "But if the government doesn't implement its own decision to demolish the buildings, it means the real ruling force in Israelis the settler central committee of Likud. This is a highly political issue."