State to return Homesh land to Palestinian owners

The Justice Ministry notifies the High Court of its decision in response to a 2010 petition by the Palestinian owners.

jewish settlers stands on a house Homesh in 2005 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
jewish settlers stands on a house Homesh in 2005 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The state intends to nullify the original 1978 military seizure order for the land of the former Homesh settlement, a move that would return the property to its former Palestinian owners.
The Justice Ministry notified the High Court of its decision late Thursday, in response to a 2010 petition by the Palestinian owners, who were represented by the Israeli NGO Yesh Din.
This precedent-setting ruling legally closes the door on the ability of settlers to rebuild the Homesh settlement, Yesh Din attorney Shlomi Zachary told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night.
Homesh was one of four settlements in northern Samaria that were evacuated as part of the 2005 disengagement plan, in which Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip and destroyed 21 Jewish communities there.
But while Israel gave up the Gaza Strip, which is now ruled by Hamas, it held onto the northern Samaria section of Area C where the four settlements, including Homesh, were located.
The four former settlements – Homesh, Sa-Nur, Ganim and Kadim, have since been mostly declared closed military zones, and neither Palestinians nor the settlers have been able to access them.
Settlers who live in hope of rebuilding these communities have over the years staged events at Sa-Nur and Homesh. During Passover, thousands of settlers and rightwing supporters rallied on the Samaria hilltop where Homesh had been located and called on the government to rebuild the settlement.
The state’s decision, however, nullifies the legal procedures on the basis of which the Homesh settlement was founded.
The land was seized for security reasons from the village of Burka in 1978 for a Nahal Brigade. But instead of using the land for military purposes, the settlement of Homesh was built there.
Changes to the law since then made it impossible for military land seizure orders of this kind to be used to build settlements.
Zachary said that 44 West Bank settlements were built as the result of land seizure orders and that it was unclear to him, what impact, if any, this ruling would have on those settlements.
The state on Thursday also told the High Court of Justice it would weigh rescinding the order that declares the area of Homesh a closed military zone.
Zachary said that he would continue to pursue the matter of Palestinian access to the land.
“Thirty-five years have passed since the land was usurped from its lawful owners,” Zachary said. “Eight years have passed since the settlement of Homesh was evacuated.
It is regrettable that it has taken so many years for the state to decide to observe the law and to return the usurped land to its owners. Our main concern now is to ensure that the landowners will actually be able to reach their land.”
Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Mesika said it was an unfortunate decision.
The site of Homesh continues to remain part of Area C under full Israeli control because it is viewed as strategically important, he said.