Enacted by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the Disengagement Law led to evacuation of four illegal Israeli settlements in occupied West Bank and Gaza.
The Israeli parliament – Knesset – has approved a contentious bill that would repeal clauses of the 2005 Disengagement Law that ban Jewish communities and military forces from living in the besieged Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank.
The Knesset approval came amid the Benjamin Netyanhu-led far-right government’s move to weaken the judiciary, which has sparked weeks-long mass protests.
It would take three readings for the amendment to become law.
If approved, the law would enable Israeli settlers to reconstruct illegal outposts near Jenin in the occupied northern West Bank that were dismantled in 2005.
The Bill is crucial to the Benjamin Netyanhu-led extreme right government’s effort to legalise Homesh, an illegal settlement outpost which settlers have repeatedly attempted to rebuild.
The Bill was introduced by many Israeli far-right politicians.
At least 40 Knesset members voted in favour of the Bill, while 17 lawmakers opposed it.
According to the legislation's introductory text, the Disengagement Law will not apply to the evacuated territory – the four settlements of Sa-Nur, Homesh, Ganim and Kadim evacuated in 2005. The Bill says there is no longer any justification to prevent Israelis from entering and staying in northern Samaria, a reference to the biblical name of the West Bank.
Yuli Edelstein, chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, defended the Bill, saying the changes in the law would correct an “injustice” even if it takes a few years.
“The bill is intended to cancel the declaration of a closed military zone in northern Samaria within the law from 2005 and to enable renewed entry of Israelis,” he said.
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What is the Disengagement Law?
In 2005, then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon enacted a law requiring unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank and the removal of 25 settlements in the two areas.
This was done with the dual purpose of improving Israel’s security and international status in the absence of peace negotiations with Palestinians.
Under the plan, 21 settlements in occupied Gaza have been removed, and 8,000 settlers evacuated. In the occupied northern West Bank, four settlements have been evacuated. It is now a restricted military zone.
While Israelis are not authorised to enter the Homesh area since 2005, frequent entries continued.
The move to scrap the clauses has invited global condemnation as well as criticism within Israel.
The Palestinian foreign ministry denounced the planned move and urged the international community to pressure Israel to stop the Bill from becoming law, warning that Israel’s continuous impunity encourages it to intensify its illegal actions and measures, which could trigger a conflict flare-up.
“Proceeding with steps to enact this legislation is a dangerous escalation in the conflict, and a belittling of the efforts exerted to reduce tension and achieve calm,” it said in a statement.
“We welcome the joint statement of the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States on the latest Israeli decisions, specifically the announcement of settlements,” said Hussein al Sheikh, secretary general of the Executive Committee of the PLO.
We welcome the joint statement of the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States on the latest Israeli decisions specifically the announcement of settlements.We demand that words be turned to deeds, https://t.co/IOrVTNN8lj— حسين الشيخ Hussein AlSheikh (@HusseinSheikhpl) February 14, 2023
Lior Amihai, the director of the non-governmental organisation Peace Now said the Bill violates the rights of the Palestinians and endangers the lives of the settlers and the security forces who will have to protect them.
“The bill’s purpose is not only to allow Israelis access, but also to allow the establishment of outposts and settlements in the area, and thus deal a fatal blow to the possibility of Israel reaching an agreement with the Palestinians, and to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the future,” she said, adding how legalising the private lands taken by force facilitates settler violence and land theft again.
Gilad Kariv, an Israeli politician, also criticised the law and said: “This Bill, if it passes into law, will lead to the establishment of illegal outposts in northern Samaria and will increase the friction between Israelis and Palestinians. The proposal is another step towards the de-facto annexation that the government is promoting and to the reality of a bleeding bi-national state.”
The UK and other EU countries, including France and Germany, expressed “strong opposition to Israel’s settlement expansion policy,” which forced the eviction of numerous Palestinian families from their homes in the occupied West Bank.
“It is very worrying that Israeli authorities intend to continue demolishing Palestinian houses in the occupied West Bank and East al Quds during the Muslim’s holy month of Ramadan,” the statement read.
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