Knesset repeals Disengagement as MK calls to return to Gaza Strip

Right-wing MKs praised the repeal of the Disengagement Law, while some are marking the return to Gush Katif as the next goal.

 Signs are displayed outside a visitor's center in Nitzan near Ashod, Israel, that commemorates the former Gush Katif Jewish settlements in Gaza , August 9, 2015 (photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
Signs are displayed outside a visitor's center in Nitzan near Ashod, Israel, that commemorates the former Gush Katif Jewish settlements in Gaza , August 9, 2015
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)

The Knesset made history early Tuesday morning when it repealed the 2005 Disengagement Law in northern Samaria, a move that its supporters hope paves the way to rebuilding the four West Bank settlements there that were destroyed, and might even signal the first step in the return of Israel to the Gaza Strip.

“We must not rest on our laurels or the euphoria of the moment,” said MK Limor Son Har-Melech (Otzma Yehudit) after the bill passed with the support of just 31 parliamentarians and the opposition of only 18.

“We must galvanize tomorrow to complete the next two tasks that lie ahead of us: These are the reestablishment of the four settlements that were evacuated in northern Samaria, and the return home to the region of Gush Katif, which was abandoned [in 2005] in an act of terrible folly and has become a nest of terror.”

The act is personal for Son Har-Melech because she is an evacuee from the former Homesh settlement, which the IDF destroyed almost 18 years ago along with Sa-Nur, Kadim and Ganim.

The repeal of the bill carries enormous symbolism for those who have long believed that the Disengagement – in which Israel destroyed four northern Samaria settlements and withdrew from Gaza, evacuating 21 communities there – was one of the worst mistakes in Israel’s history.

View of the unauthorized outpost of Homesh in the West Bank on November 17, 2022. (credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)View of the unauthorized outpost of Homesh in the West Bank on November 17, 2022. (credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)

They point to the events that occurred after the withdrawal, including Hamas’s forced control of the Gaza Strip and the vastly increased capacity of Palestinians there to fire rockets into Israel. These events have also included at least four wars with Gaza that in the latter years have involved rockets that could hit Tel Aviv and the center of the country.

The repeal of the Disengagement Law in northern Samaria does not affect the Gaza withdrawal, which remains intact. It lifts the ban on the entry of Israelis to the sites of the four northern Samaria evacuated settlements and would – with further approvals from the government and the IDF’s Civil Administration – make it possible to rebuild those settlements.

Three of those communities were built on state land, and one, Homesh, was constructed on private Palestinian land.

Homesh, of which the only thing that remained was its orange-painted water tower, became the most visible symbol of the battle to reclaim the site of the four northern Samaria settlements. To help ensure that the hilltop would one day be rebuilt, the Homesh Yeshiva, which had existed in the Homesh settlement illegally set up a modular seminary with tents and huts, remained on the hilltop for close to 17 years, despite multiple evacuations.

Representatives from the yeshiva were in the Knesset for the vote, as was the family of Yehuda Dimentman, 25. He was a student at the yeshiva who was killed in a terrorist attack in December 2021, as he was leaving the Homesh hilltop.

Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, an evacuee from Sa-Nur, who has battled from the start to return to northern Samaria, was also in the Knesset.

Opposition to the bill

KNESSET FOREIGN Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Yuli Edelstein (Likud), who opposed Disengagement and has long pushed for legislation to repeal it, introduced the bill.

Edelstein and Dagan have blamed the Disengagement for the strong terrorist cells that exist in northern Samaria.

“History has shown and continues to show us that whenever we give up our homeland, we will receive an increase in terror. It is a clear and well-known equation, with results that never change,” Edelstein said.

MK Gadi Eisenkot (National Unity), who is a former IDF chief of staff, spoke against the repeal, warning that it prompted a one-state solution that “endangered the Zionist enterprise” and harmed the continuation of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, a nation on whose behalf he had fought all his life.

He noted that just three years ago, Israel had accepted former US president Donald Trump’s peace plan, but that the territory of the four evacuated settlements was outside the parameters of that plan.

“I think this is a mistake,” Eisenkot said, saying he recalled a time when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thought so, too.

Eisenkot added that it was important to put a security apparatus in place to ensure the safety of those who would now enter the sites of those settlements.

Labor party head Merav Michaeli, who opposed the bill, said after the vote, “Let’s be honest: no one threatens the Zionist vision as much as the settlers.

“The repeal of the Disengagement Law is another step in the crazy vision of the Land of Israel at the expense of the State of Israel. It’s a clearly dangerous anti-Zionist move, which in the end will make Israel neither Jewish nor democratic. This is the surest route to the establishment of a binational state and the end of the Zionist project,” she said.

The left-wing Peace Now NGO warned, “The return of settlers to the northern West Bank will be a huge security burden and a focus of settler violence. This decision will also pave the way for establishing many more outposts in an area that is now almost entirely Palestinian.

“It is clear that in addition to the judicial coup, a messianic revolution is taking place. This government will inevitably destroy our country. They will also deepen the occupation, ignite the region, and establish a Jewish supremacist regime from the river to the sea.

“This decision is a cry for generations. We cannot stand by and watch as this extremist, far-right and fascist government plunges us into chaos and violence.”

The left-wing group Yesh Din said it planned to continue with its petition to the High Court of Justice to ensure that the rights of the Palestinians who own land on the hilltop will be upheld.

On Tuesday, National Missions Minister Orit Struck went to Homesh to thank the seminary students for their long-time dedication to the mission of rebuilding the four destroyed settlements, which she said “had led to this moment of transformation in which Israel would no longer retreat from its historic territory but would strengthen its hold on through a movement of return to the land.”

To the Homesh students, Struck said, “You are the silent heroes of this revolutionary movement.”

Dagan, who traveled with her to Homesh, said he was already starting to make plans for the authorization of the yeshiva and the reconstruction of the settlements.

Homesh evacuee Beni Gal recalled, “On the night we were uprooted from here, it was clear to us that this was not the end of the story. Years of struggle, longing and dreams have come to an end. This is the closing of a circle.”