West Bank settlers win Israel parliament vote


Israel’s settler movement celebrated on Tuesday after parliament annulled part of a law barring them from living in areas of the occupied West Bank that the government left in 2005.

That year Ariel Sharon’s government oversaw Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, and the removal of Jewish settlers from the Palestinian enclave and four settlements in the northern West Bank.

Legislation passed at the time prohibited Israelis from staying in those areas, but an amendment approved by lawmakers overnight allows Israel to return to West Bank settlement sites near the city of Nablus.

The parliament’s vote notably paves the way for Israeli authorities to formally allow settlers to return to Homesh, the only one of the four sites that were forcibly evacuated of their residents before their homes were demolished.

The United Nations declares that all Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, the government disputes the charge.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power in December, leading one of the most right-wing administrations in the country’s history.

Amid the escalation of violence in the conflict between Israel and Palestine, the United Nations Security Council last month called on all parties to “stop provocative actions”.

The Council expressed in a statement on February 20 that it was “opposing all unilateral measures that hinder peace – including the construction and expansion of Israeli settlements, the confiscation of Palestinian land and the ‘legitimization’ of settlement centers.” “

Homesh, which housed 70 families in 2005, has been made by Israel’s far-right settler lobby as a symbol of their cause.

A small group of activists returned to the site in 2009 and built a yeshiva, a Jewish seminary, which was evacuated numerous times by Israeli forces until the army finally allowed them to stay.

– ‘Messianic Revolution’ –

Israel’s far-right Finance Minister, Bezalel Smotrich, himself a settler in the West Bank who has claimed “no existence for the Palestinian people”, said the parliament’s vote was “historic”.

The legislative measure “advances the regularity of our presence at Homesh,” he wrote on Twitter, as additional steps are needed before the government allows its citizens to return to the site en masse.

Limor Son-Har Melech, a far-right lawmaker who lived in Homesh in 2005, described the vote as a moment of “boundless joy”.

The Israeli anti-settlement movement Peace Now said the parliamentary decision would encourage the building of more outposts from the West Bank — settlements established by Israelis without prior approval from the government.

“A Messianic revolution is underway … this government will undoubtedly destroy our country,” Peace Now wrote on Twitter.

The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which rules Gaza, described the vote as a “crime” and called on the international community to “stop violations of the settler-colonial occupation”.

In December 2021, an AFP photographer saw the seminary and dormitory on the site, which was guarded by the Israeli military.

Last year, clashes broke out between Israeli security forces and Palestinians from the village of Burqa who claim to own the land on which Homesh was built.

The Palestinian people were protesting against the return of the settlers to Homesh. They also appealed to the supreme court of Israel, which in January gave the government 90 days to defend why the authorities have not evicted Israelis who returned to the site.

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