Ministers said to delay vote on repealing 2005 West Bank pullout
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Ministers said to delay vote on repealing 2005 West Bank pullout

Proposed legislation would allow Israelis to return to 4 settlements, evacuated 12 years ago but still under Israeli control

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Likud and Jewish Home lawmakers at a ceremony at the evacuated Sa-nur settlement in the northern West Bank. (Jacob Magid/The Times of Israel)
Likud and Jewish Home lawmakers at a ceremony at the evacuated Sa-nur settlement in the northern West Bank. (Jacob Magid/The Times of Israel)

A key ministerial panel on Sunday reportedly postponed a vote on a proposal to “cancel” the 2005 pullout from the northern West Bank and permit Israelis to return to settlements that were razed during the unilateral withdrawal 12 years ago.

The proposed legislation was submitted to the Knesset in February and presented to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation — the panel which determines whether bills receive coalition backing — for approval on Sunday. By Sunday afternoon, however, the ministers had decided to postpone a decision on the bill until next week, according to Channel 2 news.

The bill, penned by Jewish Home MKs Shuli Moalem-Refaeli and Bezalel Smotrich, would dramatically amend the original 2005 Knesset law that paved the way for the Israeli withdrawal from 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip and four in the northern West Bank.

In 2005, then-prime minister Ariel Sharon masterminded the unilateral evacuation of Jewish settlements in Gaza and handed the area over to Palestinian rule, ending 38 years of Israeli military control of the territory.

Unlike the Gaza Strip, from which the IDF pulled out entirely, the army remains deployed in many areas of the West Bank, including the sites of the evacuated settlements.

While the text of the bill speaks generally about permitting Israelis entry to areas that were relinquished, with Gaza under Hamas control it relates in effect only to the four settlements in the northern West Bank — Kadim, Ganim, Homesh, and Sa-Nur — that were evacuated in the same period.

Israeli settlers play on the water tower in the evacuated West Bank settlement of Homesh on June 12. 2007. (Maya Levin/Flash90)

Settlers have attempted to reestablish Sa-Nur and other evacuated West Bank settlements in the past, including in 2008, when some 1,000 people converged on Homesh and dozens more on Sa-Nur in a short-lived attempt to rebuild.

The text of the bill addresses the stated goals of the original 2005 Disengagement Law, which sought to “create a better reality security-wise, diplomatically, economically and demographically,” and predicted Gaza would be disarmed of weapons and “a new Palestinian leadership will be established, which would prove itself able to fulfill its obligations in accordance with the road map [for peace agreements].”

Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich (blue shirt) sits among the hundreds who gathered for a ceremony at the evacuated Sa-nur settlement in the northern West Bank. (Jacob Magid/The Times of Israel)

“The 12 years that have passed since the government decision and the 11 years since its implementation have made a mockery of the goals of the disengagement, and have repeatedly proved the failures on which the plan was based, its losses, and the immense damage it caused to Israel’s security, economy, and foreign ties,” the new proposal reads.

Israel has fought three wars with Hamas since the pullout, after the terror group wrested control of the territory from the Palestinian Authority in a violent 2007 coup. The terror organization in recent weeks reached a reconciliation agreement with the rival Fatah faction to relinquish its administrative control over the Gaza Strip to the PA by December. Israel has said it will not recognize the deal and a new Palestinian government, unless Hamas agrees to disarm completely and recognize the State of Israel.

“Since not a single goal of the disengagement plan has been realized, and instead of benefits has only caused enormous damage, there is greater understanding of the injustice done to the citizens whose evacuation and uprooting was sanctioned by the law,” the proposal reads. “Therefore, it is recommended to cancel the ban on entry and stay in the areas of disengagement, and, in so doing, to erase to a certain degree the national, moral stain tainting the past of the State of Israel.”

In August, 11 lawmakers from the Likud and Jewish Home parties were among a group of several hundred who traveled to Sa-Nur and urged Israel to rebuild the settlement. Speaking with The Times of Israel at the time, coalition chairman David Bitan (Likud) said that the four settlements had been evacuated solely due to US pressure at the time.

“Unlike with Gaza where we evacuated everyone, these four settlements are in [Israeli controlled] Area C and the army still operates there,” he said. “Therefore, there is no reason why Israelis should not be able to return.”

Times of Israel staff and Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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