Knesset votes to repeal Disengagement Law for northern West Bank

The unauthorized West Bank settlement outpost of Homesh, November 17, 2022. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)
The unauthorized West Bank settlement outpost of Homesh, November 17, 2022. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

The Knesset votes to roll back legislation that ordered the evacuation of four northern West Bank settlements concurrent with Israel’s pullout from the Gaza Strip in 2005, passing the repeal in second and third (final) Knesset readings early Tuesday morning.

The law, passed in a 31-18 vote, repeals the clauses of the Disengagement Law that banned Israelis from the area where the settlements of Homesh, Ganim, Kadim and Sa-Nur once stood. They were the only West Bank settlements to be cleared during what is termed the disengagement from Gaza 18 years ago.

The move helps the coalition’s efforts to legalize a wildcat outpost currently occupying the site of Homesh.

The head of the IDF central command will still need to sign a military order allowing Israelis to return to those areas.

The destroyed towns have been a symbol to settlement supporters of an injustice they seek to undo, while to Palestinians they are another section of West Bank territory stripped from them. The High Court of Justice has ruled that at least one of the communities was illegally built on private Palestinian land.

The bill is contentious internationally and its final Knesset readings come at a tricky time. Earlier this week, Israel — in the presence of US, Egyptian, and Jordanian officials — reaffirmed its pledge to the Palestinian Authority to refrain from advancing settlement plans for four months and from advancing the legalization of West Bank outposts for six months.

This promise, and an accompanying Palestinian promise to freeze unilateral actions that are opposed by Israel, are aimed at lowering Israel-Palestinian tensions that frequently simmer around Islam’s holy month of Ramadan, expected to begin on Thursday.

The bill is sponsored by MK Yuli Edelstein and also backed by several other Likud MKs, ultra-Orthodox Shas lawmakers and members of the ultra-nationalist Religious Zionism and Otzma Yehudit parties. Among them is freshman Otzma Yehudit MK Limor Son Har-Melech, a former resident of Homesh whose first husband was killed in a terror attack while living there.

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