Over a dozen lawmakers participated in a pair of dueling solidarity visits on Sunday in the northern West Bank, which has become a flashpoint for Israeli-Palestinian violence in recent weeks.
A right-wing delegation of mainly Likud MKs toured the illegal Homesh outpost, which was the site of a terror attack last month during which a Palestinian gunman opened fire on a group of Israeli yeshiva students driving home after a day’s study, killing 25-year-old Yehudah Dimantman.
Participants included MKs Yuli Edelstein, Nir Barkat, Eli Cohen, Yoav Kisch and Ofir Katz from Likud, Michal Waldiger from Religious Zionism and Moshe Abutbul from Shas. The MKs used the visit to add to the drumbeat of calls from the Israeli right in favor of legalizing Homesh, which was found by the state to have been built on private Palestinian land.
The High Court of Justice years ago ruled that Palestinian farmers with deeds to the land were to be given access by the army. In practice, however, that has not happened. Instead, an ultra-nationalist Israeli yeshiva has been allowed to operate on a near-daily basis for over 15 years, since the Homesh settlement was evacuated as part of the 2005 unilateral disengagement from Gaza and four northern West Bank settlements.
While security forces have razed several structures that settlers erected at Homesh in response to the December shooting attack, they have allowed the makeshift yeshiva building to remain standing, amid pressure and warnings from right-wing lawmakers, including from some in the coalition, that demolishing the compound would be a “prize for terrorism.”
Homesh is the latest of several outpost to come under scrutiny in the northern West Bank, where the government has prevented the defense establishment from demolishing wildcat hamlets.
The nearby Evyatar outpost, which was illegally reestablished in May as Israeli security forces were busy responding to violence in Gaza and in so-called mixed Jewish-Arab cities across the country, also remains intact over half a year later. Dozen of settler families agreed to vacate the area in a deal with the government that allowed the outpost to remain and put in place a permanent military presence that would watch over the empty trailers as the government determined whether the outpost could be legalized.
The new outpost has led to weekly protests by Palestinians in the adjacent village of Beita, who see the wildcat hamlet as part of a larger Israeli effort to take control of West Bank land the Palestinians view as part of their future state.
The protests have often been violent and responding IDF troops have used live fire against the demonstrators, killing at least 10 in recent months. The protests have been extreme in nature, including setting ablaze Stars of David and swastikas, and they have galvanized the support of Palestinians throughout the West Bank and the Palestinian Authority as well.
On Sunday, members of the majority-Arab Joint List visited Beita and posed for pictures with the town’s leadership as well as some of the teens who have been injured in the weekly protests. The MKs condemned the Israeli army’s crackdown on the protests and called for the razing of the illegal Jewish outposts in the area.