Seventeen years after residents of the Homesh, Sa-Nur, Kaddim and Ganim settlements were kicked out of their homes by the Israeli government as part of the Disengagement, the Knesset voted to repeal the portion of the Disengagement Law banning Israelis from going there.
Settler leaders and right-wing MKs welcomed the move, calling it a “first step” toward reestablishment.
“With Israel behind us, there is room here for many more new settlements, God willing,” said Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, who once lived in Sa-Nur, during celebrations at Homesh on Tuesday.
"We are now starting to plan the re-establishment of the [Homesh] Yeshiva and the re-establishment of the settlements that were destroyed. With Israel behind us, there is room here for many more new settlements God willing."Yossi Dagan
Otzma Yehudit MK Limor Son Har-Melech, who lived in Homesh and lost her husband, Shuli, in a terrorist attack nearby, stressed that the government should move forward.
“A governmental settlement plan is also required for the rest of the vast areas of northern Samaria, which will create strategic settlement sequences and ensure Jewish control of this land,” she said. Har-Melech additionally called for the reestablishment of the Gush Katif settlements, which were located in the Gaza Strip.
“Our vision is the complete cancellation of the Disengagement Law and the return of all settlements that were evacuated and destroyed – the four settlements in northern Samaria and twenty-two settlements in Gush Katif,” Har-Melech “It is an inseparable part of the Land of Israel, our homeland, and we have the right and duty to settle there.”
So what does the repeal of the Disengagement Law actually do?
The repeal of the Disengagement Law only lifts the ban on Israeli citizens entering the area; it does not automatically approve the reestablishment of the four evacuated settlements, hence Har-Melech’s insistence.
The status of the land will now be like the rest of Area C, meaning that any further restrictions or permits for building will fall to the IDF and the government.
The four evacuated settlements are located in areas surrounded by Palestinian towns and distant from other Israeli settlements, at the northern-most point in Samaria, meaning that protecting any future settlements at these locations would present a significant challenge to the defense establishment.
The locations of Sa-Nur and Homesh are amid the Palestinian towns of Burka, Silat ad-Dhahr and Jaba, north of Nablus, while those of Ganim and Kaddim are right next to Jenin, a hot-spot for Palestinian terrorist groups.
On Wednesday, after a diplomatic uproar, the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed that the government does not intend to establish new settlements in northern Samaria, adding that the nullification of the law was meant “to end a discriminatory and humiliating law banning Jews from living in northern Samaria.”
Reestablishing Homesh in particular will present an additional hurdle to jump over.
While Sa-Nur, Kaddim and Ganim were located on state land, Homesh is located on land that has been deemed privately-owned Palestinian land.
In 1978, the area where Homesh would eventually sit was seized by a military order with the stated purpose of using the land for security reasons, but it was used instead to establish a settlement. Homesh was evacuated in 2005 as part of the Disengagement from northern Samaria and the Gaza Strip.
In 2011, the head of the village of Burka and Palestinians from the village with records of ownership over the land where Homesh was located filed a lawsuit to the High Court of Justice, demanding the nullification of the seizure order and to be allowed to return to farm on the land in question.
During the proceedings, the military seizure order and a separate order prohibiting entry to Palestinians were nullified and the lawsuit was canceled, as its goal had been met.
Despite the nullification of the orders and the state’s recognition of the status of the land as privately owned Palestinian property, settlers have continued operating a yeshiva on the land since shortly after the Disengagement.
Since its establishment, the yeshiva has functioned at the site largely undisturbed by security forces, although in recent years, additional checkpoints were put up in the area and structures used by the yeshiva were demolished.
In 2019, the owners of the land filed a lawsuit to the High Court, demanding that the yeshiva be removed and that they be allowed access to the land. In January 2023, the court gave the state 90 days to explain why it was not evacuating the yeshiva, as well as questioning how it would be possible for the state to approve a settlement on land it does not own but that is instead privately owned by Palestinians.
After the High Court hearing, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich announced that the government was “changing direction” on Homesh and would promote legislation to legalize the continuation of the yeshiva’s operations.
The announcement did not address the possibility to reestablish the entire settlement and did not clarify how the government could legalize the use by the yeshiva of land that has been shown to be private Palestinian property, the seizure of which is currently illegal under Israeli law.
Left-wing NGOs warn of risks presented by repealing the Disengagement
After the vote on Tuesday, left-wing NGO Yesh Din, which is representing the Palestinians who own the land on which Homesh sat, stressed that despite the repeal of the law, they will continue with the lawsuit that aims to remove the Homesh yeshiva.
“The cancellation of the secession law cannot legalize robbery and theft,” said Yesh Din. “The lands on which the settlement of Homesh was built are still Palestinian lands privately owned by residents of the village of Burka.”
The Commanders for Israel’s Security movement warned that the repeal of the Disengagement is “destructive to the security of the state,” calling it “another in a series of delusional decisions by the Israeli government that will harm the personal and national security of each of us, and provoke Israel’s political and security backer – our important friend, the USA.”
The movement further warned that “the decision will tear apart the Abraham Accords and will inflame violence at the cost of the blood of IDF soldiers and civilians.”
Peace Now warned that the repeal will have “drastic implications,” pointing to the possibility that settlers who will now be allowed to enter the area will establish illegal outposts and create pressure to establish recognized settlements in the area. And freedom of entry for Israelis will also increase friction between Palestinians and Israelis.