By Josh Hasten
The head of the Israel Defense Forces Central Command on Thursday signed off on an order allowing Israelis to return to what was once the northern Samaria community of Homesh. The document was shared on social media on Saturday by Israeli Finance Minister Betzalel Smotrich.
“We promised to regulate [legalize] continued Torah study in the Homesh Yeshiva, and we are keeping [our promise],” tweeted Smotrich. Homesh had been annexed to the Samaria Regional Council “for a renewed planning design of the yeshiva,” he added.
In March, the Knesset voted 31-18 to repeal articles of a 2005 law banning Israelis from entering and residing in four communities in northern Samaria, which in addition to Homesh, included Sa-Nur, Ganim, and Kadim. Following the vote, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant issued an order implementing the decision; Judea and Samaria are under Israeli military authority.
For now, the document issued by IDF Central Command head Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs pertains only to Homesh. Nevertheless, Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan praised the move, calling Thursday “a day of celebration,” “This is … an important day in the history of the State of Israel,” he said, marking the rectification of “one of the greatest injustices done in this country to the Land of Israel and to Israeli citizens.” He congratulated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Gallant for the “brave and important” move, “a move by leaders who dared to change the reality and make it right.” Likud Knesset member Dan Illouz told Zenger News that he, too, was pleased by the rectification of the “historic injustice” of the State of Israel banning Jews from certain areas. “Prohibiting the mere presence of Jews in any location is unacceptable, especially in the historical and rightful land of Israel,” he said.
Nadia Matar and Yehudit Katsover, co-chairs of the Sovereignty Movement, also approved the move, telling Zenger News it was long overdue. “We are very happy with the decision to annul this unjust law and applaud this government for carrying it out. After 18 years, it was long overdue, and this is an indication of great progress,” they said.
“Now is the time to move onwards towards the application of sovereignty over all of Judea, Samaria, and the Jordan Valley, and to make sure such tragic mistakes such as the expulsion from northern Samaria and Gush Katif don’t happen again,” they added. Echoing Matar and Katsover, IDF Lt. Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch told Zenger News the move was a “good start” but did not go far enough.
“The 2005 so-called Israeli ‘disengagement’ from Gaza and parts of northern Samaria played into the territorial aspirations of the Palestinian Authority—to create ever-increasing Arab-dominated territories that are entire ‘Judenfrei,’” said Hirsch, who served for 20 years in the IDF Military Advocate General’s Corps. “Revoking the Israeli legislation that facilitated this fundamentally racist practice is a good start, but it is not sufficient.
This government should make all the preparations necessary not only to repeal racist laws but to also ensure the application of Israeli law throughout Judea and Samaria. Israel holds the sole sovereign title to these areas, and the full incorporation of these areas into Israel is now 56 years late,” he said.
However, not everyone is happy with the move. In a statement sent to Zenger News, a U.S. Embassy spokesperson said, “As we said in March, the United States is deeply troubled by efforts to rescind important parts of the 2005 disengagement law, including the prohibition on establishing settlements in the northern West Bank. At least one of the outposts in this area, Homesh, was illegally built on private Palestinian land.”
The spokesperson added, “The United States strongly urges Israel to refrain from allowing the return of Israeli settlers to the area covered by the legislation passed in March, consistent with both former [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon’s and the current Israeli government’s commitments to the United States.
“We have been clear that advancing settlements is an obstacle to peace and the achievement of a two-state solution. This certainly includes creating new settlements, building or legalizing outposts, or allowing the building of any kind on private Palestinian land or deep in the West Bank adjacent to Palestinian communities.”
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