Court backs settler evacuation on Homesh, upholds Palestinian rights

The court didn’t directly order the evacuation, but it accepted the state’s declaration of intent to evacuate the small illegallybuilt modular seminary.

 Israeli soldiers block the entrance to Homesh, in the West Bank, on May 28, 2022.  (photo credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)
Israeli soldiers block the entrance to Homesh, in the West Bank, on May 28, 2022.
(photo credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)

The High Court of Justice backed evacuation of the Homesh Yeshiva as it upheld Palestinian rights to farm the contested hilltop in the Samaria region of the West Bank.

The court didn’t directly order the evacuation, but it accepted the state’s declaration of intent to evacuate the small illegally built modular seminary at the site and asked for an update on the situation by August 10.

“We note the declaration by the defense that the law dictates that the place must be evacuated and that enforcement action will continue in a manner detailed in its submission” to the court earlier this week.

On Sunday the state told the court that the December 2021 terror attack that claimed the life of Homesh yeshiva student Yehuda Dimentman, 25, had complicated any evacuation plans because such a move after a terror attack gave the Palestinians to understand that such violence was effective.

The court’s decision to back an evacuation of Homesh is likely to complicate matters for Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s shaky coalition. Politicians from its right flank are under heavy pressure to abandon the government over settlement issues.

  Otzma Yehudit MK Itamar Ben-Gvir, Yamina MK Idit Silman and other right-wing politicians attend a demonstration at the West Bank settlement of Homesh (credit: SAMARIA REGIONAL COUNCIL) Otzma Yehudit MK Itamar Ben-Gvir, Yamina MK Idit Silman and other right-wing politicians attend a demonstration at the West Bank settlement of Homesh (credit: SAMARIA REGIONAL COUNCIL)

Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan immediately attacked Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz after hearing about the court’s decision.

“I demand” that Bennett and Gantz “stop hiding behind the High Court,” Dagan said. He noted that the court, in issuing its decision, had relied heavily on the state’s responses, a submission in support of evacuation, he said. In light of that stance, the court “asked for the schedule,” Dagan said.

Homesh is not a legal matter, it’s a political one.

Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan

“This government has failed both with respect to the settlement and in the protection of its citizens. The people will replace it,” Dagan said.

Why is Homesh so problematic?

Homesh is one of four northern Samaria settlements the government evacuated during the 2005 Disengagement plan. The Disengagement Law has banned Israelis from reentering the sites of those four communities, but for over 15 years Homesh has been the home of a small illegal modular yeshiva.

Homesh differs from the other three northern Samaria evacuated communities in that it was built on private Palestinian property. The High Court has recognized the rights of the Palestinian landowners from the nearby village of Burka to farm that land.

In 2019 the left-wing NGO Yesh Din petitioned the High Court explaining that Palestinians had been denied access to that hilltop, in part due to the presence of the yeshiva.

In its ruling Thursday the court affirmed the right of the Palestinian farmers to access that land stating that it had taken note of the section of the state’s submission on Sunday that clarified the rights of the Palestinians to seek IDF support in ensuring access to their property.

Yesh Din said, “it’s clear to the state, to the court, to everyone that Homesh must be evacuated immediately. We call on the defense minister to stop playing with the laws and start enforcing them.”