The Israeli parliament has approved the first reading of a bill that aims to reverse the 2005 Disengagement Law, which led to the removal of Israeli settlements and military forces from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank. The bill only pertains to the northern West Bank and seeks to legalize the illegal settlement outpost of Homesh. This is a significant development that will eventually allow the government to authorize the violent outpost of Homesh, and gradually to establish further settlements and outposts in a region that is predominantly Palestinian. This is another blow to the possibility of a future Palestinian State and will inevitably endanger, first and foremost, Palestinian livelihood and lives, as well as that of Israelis and soldiers alike.
The legislation, which was proposed by Likud MK Yuli Edelstein and supported by National Missions Minister Orit Strock, was passed with 62 votes in favor and 36 against. Still, it will require three additional votes to become law. Earlier this week, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved this bill to amend the 2005 Disengagement Law and thereby allow Israeli citizens to enter areas that were evacuated as part of the disengagement plan in 2005.
This will be a significant step for the return of settlers to the Homesh settlement and to the other three settlements in the north part of the West Bank that were evacuated as part of the disengagement plan (Sa-Nur, Ganim, and Kadim). This decision will also pave the way for establishing many more outposts in an area that is now almost entirely Palestinian.
Peace Now: “Alongside the regime coup that this government is advancing, a messianic coup is taking place, which will create serious facts on the ground in a region that is entirely Palestinian and thus the aim is to prevent a future Palestinian State. Furthermore, the presence of Israelis in the northern West Bank is dangerous, provokes friction, and causes harm to human lives. Thus, it is a tremendous security burden and a source of settler violence. This decision will be a cry for generations.”
The meanings of this decision:
From the political point of view, this represents a significant step towards the establishment of settlements and outposts in the heart of Palestinian territory, jeopardizing the establishment of a future Palestinian state.
After the bill is approved, it will only be a matter of time until settlers demand and act to return to the four settlements evacuated in 2005: Homesh, Sa-Nur, Ganim, and Kadim. Needless to say, one can expect a campaign to establish many more outposts in the region to take control over an area, that apart from the small and violent outpost located today in Homesh, is entirely Palestinian.
It is important to note that in all the negotiations that have taken place, the northern Samaria region has always remained outside the scope of the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians and is considered an area that, at any cost, will be part of a future Palestinian state. Thus, the return of the presence of settlers to this particular region will seriously damage the chance of reaching a political agreement in the future.
Another meaning is that this decision will ignite the imagination and ambitions of the settlers to turn the wheel back and settle around the Gaza Strip again. While this does not seem likely to be done now, we have learned from experience that the ambitions of the settlers that are laid now, often materialize in the future.
From a human rights perspective, this will lead to a massive stealing of Palestinian land alongside increased settler violence and real danger to Palestinian lives.
Homesh was primarily built on private Palestinian lands registered in the tabu (the Land Registration Office). Thus, this law will drive a final nail in the honest attempt of Palestinians to recover the massive land grab that was taken from them, and from the landowners in particular.
In addition, although the Homesh settlement was evicted, a small Yeshiva located there has since been a source of violence from settlers who receive protection from the army while preventing Palestinian farmers from reaching their land. The lifting of the legal ban on the presence of Israelis in the area will provide an incentive for the arrival of more Israelis in the area. As a result, Palestinian lands will continue to be, at least de facto, expropriated.
In the security sense, this decision will add to the security burden by increasing the friction between soldiers, settlers, and Palestinians.
The outpost built on the Homesh settlement site is a concrete example of the dangers of the settlers’ presence in the area. Settler violence, and the presence of the army in the area to protect the settlers, is a frequent source of friction and violence.
As mentioned above, apart from Homesh, the rest of the area is entirely and densely populated by Palestinians. The return of a permanent presence of settlers, and thus also of the army, is expected to increase the friction between the populations and thus will not only seriously damage the well-being of the Palestinians in the area but also endanger their lives, as well as that of the settlers and the soldiers (For more information on settler violence around Homesh, click here).