11 MKs visit evacuated settlement, declare ‘mission’ to return permanently
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11 MKs visit evacuated settlement, declare ‘mission’ to return permanently

Settler leader heading delegation of right-wing lawmakers calls on Netanyahu to stop ‘hiding behind the Americans’ and rebuild four northern West Bank towns

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

(From L-R) MKs Idit Silman, Orit Strock, Eti Atiya, Ofir Sofer, Amir Ohana, Osnat Mark, Yuli Edelstein, Ariel Kellner, Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan, Rabbi of Yeshivat Homesh, Kati Shitrit, Miki Zohar and Michal Shir visit the evacuated northern West Bank settlement of Homesh on May 16, 2018. (Samaria Regional Council)
(From L-R) MKs Idit Silman, Orit Strock, Eti Atiya, Ofir Sofer, Amir Ohana, Osnat Mark, Yuli Edelstein, Ariel Kellner, Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan, Rabbi of Yeshivat Homesh, Kati Shitrit, Miki Zohar and Michal Shir visit the evacuated northern West Bank settlement of Homesh on May 16, 2018. (Samaria Regional Council)

Eleven right-wing lawmakers on Thursday visited an evacuated settlement 14 years after it was razed along with three other northern West Bank settlements as part of the Gaza disengagement, and offered their support for a bill that would allow Israelis to permanently return.

The trip was part of a broader campaign of Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan, a prominent settler leader, to push through the legislation, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered removed from the parliamentary agenda over two dozen times in the previous Knesset session in order to avoid upsetting the US government. The Trump administration says it is gearing up to present its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan next month.

Dagan is pushing for the immediate passage of the legislation, which would cancel the 2005 Disengagement Plan Implementation Law and allow Israelis to return to Homesh, Sa-Nur, Ganim and Kadim in the northern West Bank. He called for the law to be included in the platform of the government Netanyahu is currently working to establish.

The delegation of lawmakers that was bused to the evacuated settlement of Homesh comprised Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, eight MKs from the ruling Likud party, and two lawmakers from the Union of Right-Wing Parties. Seven of the 11 parliamentarians were freshmen MKs.

Israeli settlers throw food at border guards trying evacuate the northern West Bank settlement of Homesh on August 23, 2005. (Flash90)

The IDF provided special permission for the lawmakers to enter the area, which has been designated as a closed military zone since the disengagement.

While the army has barred Palestinians from reaching Homesh (as well as Sa-nur, Ganim and Kadim), which was created on privately owned Palestinian land seized by the IDF in 1978 for security purposes, the evacuated settlement has seen a daily presence of settlers for the past decade and a half. A yeshiva was established on Homesh’s ruins following the evacuation and due to minimal IDF enforcement, some 25 students have been ascending the hilltop each day from their trailer dorms in the nearby Shavei Shomron settlement. The rabbi of the yeshiva was present during the MKs’ visit on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters upon disembarking at Homesh, Edelstein said that the demolition of the four northern West Bank settlements had been carried out “without a purpose” and said it would be the “mission” of the Knesset to pass the disengagement-canceling law.

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

Arguing that the legislation enjoys the support of the vast majority of Likud MKs, Dagan said its fate was “in the hands of Netanyahu.”

“Hiding behind the Americans instead of making such an important decision is unacceptable,” he said.

It was one of several Knesset delegations to evacuated settlements in recent years led by Dagan, whose Samaria Regional Council serves 33 Israeli communities in the northern West Bank. In 2017, he brought 11 Likud and Jewish Home MKs to Sa-nur, then, too, calling on the government to allow Israelis to return their permanently.

The cancellation of the Disengagement Law would be a largely symbolic move — albeit a victory for the settlement movement — as the government would still need to pass additional measures to allow for the rebuilding of the razed communities.

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