Bill to Reverse North Shomron Disengagement Delayed

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli soldiers walk by the water tower on the ruins of the evacuated settlement of Chomesh in 2009. Chomesh was one of the settlements that Israel evacuated during the 2005 disengagement. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has decided to quash discussions of a bill that would have reversed some of the effects of the 2005 disengagement. The bill to cancel the disengagement in northern Shomron that was set to be discussed by the Ministerial Law Committee Sunday will be reviewed only in two weeks, at the earliest, Netanyahu decided. Netanyahu informed the bill’s sponsors, including MKs from Jewish Home and Likud whip David Bitan, of his decision late Motzoei Shabbos, Israel Radio reported. According to the report, Netanyahu said that a major policy change of this type had to be “coordinated with the Americans.”

As Israel withdrew from Gaza in the 2005 disengagement plan, the country also forcibly evacuated the residents of four communities in northern Shomron – Chomesh, Sa-Nur, Ganim and Kadim. Between them, the four towns had slightly more than 2,000 residents, but pressure has been building for years for a return of Israeli sovereignty to the region. While the law will not reestablish the towns that were dismantled as part of the 2006 disengagement, it will allow Israelis to enter the area for hikes and other purposes. Currently, Israeli citizens are not allowed to enter the area, although a small yeshivah has been operating on and off in Chomesh for several years, with the approval of the IDF.

The law states that “the purpose of the disengagement was to create a situation where Israel’s security, economy, demography, and negotiating stance would be improved. However, today it is clear that the disengagement has not only succeeded in this manner, but has created much damage to Israel specifically in these areas. Despite the removal of residents, no change has been made to the status of the land or to Israel’s military presence in the area.”

MK Shuli Muaellem-Refael, one of the bill’s sponsors, said that postponing the vote is “a callous dismissal of the will of the voters. It is not clear why the Likud would be the party to prevent legislation that would correct a decade-old injustice. When the ministers vote on the law, it will definitely be approved for legislation.”

Shomron Council head Yossi Dagan said that “we have been waiting 11 years for this. The time has come to cancel the disengagement law, everywhere that it was imposed, and especially in northern Shomron. The towns remain as they were, and are awaiting their residents’ return. The roads are there, the electrical infrastructure remains as it was. On the other hand, the injury and shame of the disengagement remain, and the time has come to remove that,” Dagan added.