The Israeli government is actively promoting the construction of Homesh, a settlement in the northern West Bank, within an area evacuated during the disengagement in 2005. This action contradicts Netanyahu’s assurances to the Americans following the bill’s passage in the Knesset this March.
Last Thursday, December 21, 2023, the appointed Commissioner of Government Property and Abandoned Lands in the Civil Administration signed the authorization for the planning of a settlement in the northern West Bank, widely known as Homesh. This decision comes despite Netanyahu’s commitment not to promote its establishment following objections from the United States. The establishment of this outpost represents a violation of Israel’s commitment dating back to the disengagement in 2005, wherein Israel pledged to unilaterally refrain from settlement activities in the northern West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The planning authorization procedures imply that a construction plan can be submitted to the Higher Planning Council to obtain approval for the plan and subsequently a building permit. The authorization process requires public disclosure to allow for objections. The timing of the publication appears to be linked to the appeal of the Yesh Din organization, legally demanding the annulment of the newly designated jurisdiction for the establishment of the Homesh settlement, allocating public land for the benefit of the residents of the Palestinian village of Burqa. As part of the appeals process, it was argued in court that the Civil Administration did not announce the authorization for the planning area, thus preventing the residents of Burqa from lodging objections. The publication would enable the state attorney’s office to argue in court that the subject of the authorization was indeed publicized. It cannot be overlooked that the process is being made public now, while attention is focused on the conflict in Gaza and Lebanon, and as the world celebrates Christmas. The fact that the process is now being made public, at a time when attention is focused on the war in Gaza and Lebanon, and the world is celebrating the Christmas holiday, underscores that this is a maneuver designed to prevent public and international scrutiny. In June 2023, the government decided that Minister Smotrich would be responsible for approving planning authorizations.
The planned settlement is situated deep in the West Bank, north of Nablus, with a current illegal outpost on the site serving as a focal point for settler violence. One of the first laws enacted by the current Knesset was the repeal of the Disengagement Law from 2005 and the lifting of the prohibition on the presence of Israelis in the northern West Bank and evicted settlements in the area. Following the amendment of the Disengagement Law, an illegal permanent structure was constructed on the site, which would serve as a yeshiva, replacing the previously unauthorized temporary structures used by the illegal outpost. Notably, this construction was done with the prior knowledge and permission of the military, allowing for the illegal building.
In parallel, a decision was made to include the area within the jurisdiction of the Samaria Regional Council. Although the amendment to the Disengagement Law permits Israeli presence in the West Bank, it does not allow residency. However, the authorization procedures open the door to permanent construction, essentially turning it into a settlement in all but name.
It’s important to note that since the beginning of the settlement enterprise in the West Bank, there have been numerous instances where educational institutions, initially established as yeshivas, later transformed into large settlements (e.g., Alon Shvut, Pnei Hever, Maskiyot, and others).
For further details about the Homesh outpost, see here.
Peace Now: “The new settlement is being promoted under the guise of war, undermining the stability of our relations with the US and our own security. While Israel is at war, Smotrich and his colleagues are asserting facts on the ground that may open up another front in the West Bank. Gantz and Eisenkot must block the establishment of a new settlement in Homesh. If we don’t stop the dream of settlement in the northern West Bank, we will wake up to the nightmare of settlements in the Gaza Strip.”