In yet another assault on Palestinians in the occupied territories, the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, passed the first reading of a bill proposing amendments to the 2005 Disengagement law on Monday, March 13.
The amendments, if adopted over the course of three readings, would pave the way for the reconstruction of Illegal settlement outposts near Jenin in the northern West Bank that were dismantled in 2005—in particular, in Homesh.
The clauses that ban settlers from residing in the region of the northern occupied West Bank where four illegal outposts—namely: Homesh, Ganim, Kadim, and Sa-Nur—were situated before 2005 will be removed from the existing laws once the bill is adopted.
The amendment bill was supported by 40 Members of the Knesset (MKs) while 17 MKs opposed it, of a house of 120.
The bill has been introduced to appease a group of settlers who have repeatedly attempted to rebuild the Homesh outpost ever since it was dismantled, as was required by the Disengagement law, during Ariel Sharon’s premiership.
The Disengagement law was part of a larger policy of unilateral disengagement from some part of the occupied territories, densely populated by Palestinians and considered difficult to maintain by the Sharon government. Sharon’s government was able to illegalize certain outposts and settlements in occupied Gaza and the West Bank and evacuate those residing there in return for compensation.
The settlements and outposts outlawed in 2005 were a very small part of Israel’s illegal settlement policy in the occupied territories. There are over 600,000 illegal settlers living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The current far-right coalition government in Israel, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, which includes extremist settler leaders such as Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, has openly endorsed plans for the further expansion of illegal settlements in the occupied territories.
The Netanyahu government has already “legalized” nine illegal outposts in the occupied West Bank in February and openly endorsed the expansion of various illegal settlements, despite opposition from Palestinians and the international community.
The Palestinian Authority issued a statement on Tuesday, March 14, condemning the proposed amendments and calling them a “dangerous escalation in the conflict.