West Bank Settlements Cleared for Return as Israel Disengagement Law Amended

Israel’s Minister of Defence, Yoav Gallant, announced the further amendment of Israel’s 2005 Disengagement Law, the legislation which facilitated the Israeli evacuation from Gaza and several West Bank settlements.

Further Amendments

The amendments made by Gallant build upon previous amendments to the law made by the Israeli Knesset in March of last year. Last year’s amendment by the government technically allowed for the travel of Israeli settlers to four Israel West Bank settlements; Homesh, Sa-Nur, Ganim, and Kadim. However, Israeli’s were still barred from returning to these areas by the IDF, who said it was not safe to do so. These four settlements were evacuated in 2005 as a part of the Disengagement Law.

Settlers were cleared to return to Homesh two months later, however the remaining three settlements were still barred due to security concerns. Homesh is located close to Israeli military installations. Sa-Nur, Ganim, and Kadim, however, are located deeper into the West Bank, in between Jenin and Nablus, two Palestinian population centres and also cities rife with militant activity.

Homesh has maintained a small settler population, largely in a ‘Yeshiva’ (an Orthodox Jewish college), of those defiant of the disengagement law, who constructed a number of illegal buildings in the settlement (including the Yeshiva). Further, it has oftentimes been used as a gathering place for the West Bank’s Israeli settler community.

With the amendment of the law by Gallant, the IDF has now approved the return of Israeli settlers to Sa-Nur, Ganim, and Kadim.

More than this, however, the amendment also includes a clause which allows for Israeli’s to now hold land titles within these settlements. The Disengagement Law had initially declared such titles null and void. While titles held before the law’s establishment are still as such, Israeli’s can now acquire new ones. This will effectively pave the path for Israeli resettlement of these areas.

Support and Opposition

The amendment has seen support and opposition amongst Israel’s political sphere.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that the amendment of the law brings an end to a “discriminatory and humiliating law that prohibited Jews from living in the northern Samaria” (Samaria being the Jewish/biblical name for the region).

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo from REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/Pool).

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, one of the most vocal proponents of Israeli West Bank settlements, spoke out in favour of the amendment.

“Thanks to the Homesh pioneers, the heroes who have determinedly held onto the site for years, the Knesset of Israel and our coalition have begun tonight to erase the disgrace of deportation from the law and advance the regularization of the Homesh Yeshiva” -Israeli Finance Minister, Bezalel Smotrich

In contrast, Israeli opposition politician, Gilad Kariv, condemned the law.

“It’s a law that takes us another step towards a binational reality. It’s a pre-annexation law. It’s a law that will lead to the establishment of more illegal outposts. It’s a law that will bring more violent and bloody friction between Israelis and Palestinians. It’s a law that will stretch the IDF’s capabilities in the territories even further. It’s an anti-Zionist Law” -Gilad Kariv

Many Palestinian groups have also spoken out against the amendment.

Israel’s West Bank settlements, the populations of which rose to over 500,000 last year, remain incredibly controversial. A number of foreign nations and entities claim them to be illegal, with many urging Israel to halt the expansion of settlements, including the US who recently stated the expansion was “contrary to international law.”

The US has further sanctioned a number of “extremist settlers.”

Violence between Israeli West Bank settlers and Palestinians is semi-commonplace, including in Homesh where a student of the Yeshiva was murdered in 2021. Violence has escalated, and grown more frequent, since the beginning of the present Israel-Gaza war.

Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray is a published journalist and historicist with over 5 years experience in writing. His primary focus is on East and West African affairs.


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