In the Shadow of War: The Government is Advancing the Establishment of a Settlement in Homesh, and Settlers are Building Another Outpost in Battir, West of Bethlehem

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. Additionally, settlers have established a new outpost in Battir, west of Bethlehem—an area designated as a World Heritage Site.


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.

New Outpost in a World Heritage Site in Battir

On Sunday, 24.12.23, settlers established a new outpost west of the Palestinian village of Battir, located west of Bethlehem. Similar to many agricultural farms, the site includes a truck serving as a residence, a large structure, and an additional building. The outpost has been established in the same location twice before and was evacuated immediately: in March 2022 and during the Christmas holiday of 2018 when settlers ascended to the same hill shortly after a new road was paved to the area.

Upon the establishment of the outpost, IDF soldiers began to distance Palestinian residents from the area, presumably to protect the settlers in the outpost. It is important to note that the outpost is situated approximately 500 meters away from the village of Battir and is considered a strategic and significant point for the settlers. The location of the outpost is part of an attempt to create a buffer of Israeli presence between the city of Bethlehem and the Palestinian villages to its west, namely Husan and Battir, aiming to prevent the possibility of a territorial continuum for a future Palestinian state (see map). In this area, two additional outposts were established in recent years: the Makhrour outpost (also known as ‘Neve Uri’) and the Eden Farm Outpost, and a plan for the expansion of the settlement Har Gilo (“Givat Hagamal“) was recently promoted.

It should be noted that the land on which the outpost was built was declared as ‘state land’ back in the 80s, but its boundaries have not undergone the required precision mapping by the ‘Blue Line Team.’ In addition, we are not aware of any legal rights granted to the settlers for the land, and they are likely considered trespassers on ‘state-owned’ property. In all previous instances where settlers entered this area, the Civil Administration evacuated them after a few days. There is a strong need that this time, too, the Civil Administration will not delay and will remove the trespassers promptly.

Approximately 1 km north of the new outpost, there is an agricultural farm outpost named ‘Neve Uri,’ (Makhrour outpost) established in 2019, also located on the lands of the village of Battir within the declared World Heritage Site.

Peace Now: “Two additional outposts are 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, and Defense Minister Gallant must instruct the Civil Administration to enforce the law and evacuate the outpost in the village of Battir. If we don’t stop the dream of settlement in the northern West Bank and in Battir, we will wake up to the nightmare of settlements in the Gaza Strip.”