Israel’s ‘evacuation government’ must be stopped, MK Yuli Edelstein (Likud) said during a visit to the West Bank Homesh hilltop on Sunday with six other right-wing opposition parliamentarians.
The visit was the first event of the revived Homesh First Knesset Caucus, which aims to politically pressure Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to rebuild the four northern Samaria settlements that the Sharon government destroyed in 2005, including the former Homesh settlement.
“We are here to stop the evacuation government,” Edelstein said.
“Homesh will be re-established and after that, we will return and open all the communities of northern Samaria,” said Edelstein, a former Knesset speaker who is seeking to lead the Likud.
He was among a minority group within the Likud, known as the rebels, who opposed the 2005 Disengagement in which Israel destroyed 25 settlements, 21 in Gaza and the four in northern Samaria.
Edelstein created the Homesh First Caucus in 2007, in an effort to rescind the Disengagement. He revived it last month in the aftermath of the terror attack that claimed the life of Yehuda Dimentman, 25, who had been a student at the Homesh Yeshiva. The seminary was opened in 2002 at Homesh and was illegally rebuilt there with modular structures soon after the 2005 Disengagement.
The Right believes that Defense Minister Benny Gantz plans to permanently demolish the yeshiva in the near future.
The Right, including the seven politicians who visited Homesh, has called on Bennett to authorize the yeshiva.
Dimentman’s family have issued a similar call as have thousands of right-wing activists who marched there on December 23 and who have been blocked from similar rallies since.
On Saturday the IDF kept activists from celebrating a post Sabbath event there, known as a Melaveh Malka, so they held it en route near the Shavei Shomron settlement.
The next day Edelstein went up to Homesh along with parliamentarians Eli Cohen, Nir Barkat, Ofir Katz and Yoav Kisch from the Likud. MK Michal Woldiger (Religious Zionist Party) and Moshe Abutbul (Shas)joined them, as did Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, himself an evacuee from the 2005 destruction of the northern Samaria settlement of Sa-Nur. That settlement, along with Ganim and Kadim, were all built on state land.
Homesh was constructed on private Palestinian property belonging to the nearby village of Burka. The High Court of Justice has upheld the right of Palestinians from Burka to farm the land on Homesh.
Dagan, however, said that the battle for the Homesh hilltop was an opportunity for Israel to declare that the Disengagement had been a mistake.
Leaving the Homesh hilltop now, he said, would be a statement of support for that 2005 Disengagement. “We will not allow the Israeli government to complete the evacuation... We won’t let that happen,” Dagan said. It’s time to “return home” to Homesh, Sa-Nur, Ganim and Kadim, which remains under full IDF control, and which should never have been destroyed in the first place. “It’s time to repeal the disgraceful evacuation [Disengagement] law.” Anything else, he said, would be interpreted by terrorists as a sign that they had won.
Barkat explained that the entire rationale for Disengagement no longer exists. “It’s clear to the whole world that a Palestinian state will not be created. Anyone who built the concept of Disengagement to advance a Palestinian state [understands] that this idea no longer holds water,” Barkat said.
Abutbul also gave an impassioned speech against Disengagement, declaring, “we will no retreat from here.”