Israeli govt lifts ban on Jewish settlers’ return to West Bank

Published March 22, 2023
THE new law allows Jewish residents to return to four West Bank settlements near Nablus which they were ordered to vacate in 2005.—AFP/file
THE new law allows Jewish residents to return to four West Bank settlements near Nablus which they were ordered to vacate in 2005.—AFP/file

JERUSALEM: Israeli parliament on Tuesday paved the way for Jewish settlers’ return to four settlements in the occupied West Bank by amending a 2005 law that ordered their evacuation in a move condemned by the Palestinian Authority.

The repeal of certain clauses in a previous disengagement law would allow Jewish residents to return to four West Bank settlements they were ordered to vacate in 2005 on condition of approval by the Israeli military.

That year the government of Ariel Sharon, a long-time settler champion turned peacemaker, oversaw a unilateral withdrawal by Israel 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 barred Israelis from staying in those areas, but an amendment approved by lawmakers overnight permits Israelis to return to the West Bank settlement sites near the city of Nablus.

Palestinians denounce parliamentary vote, call it ‘contrary’ to international resolutions

The parliamentary vote notably paves the way for Israeli authorities to formally allow settlers to return to Homesh, the only one of the four sites whose residents were forcibly removed before their homes were demolished.

Most governments around the world consider all Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories as illegal but Israel disputes this.

Yuli Edelstein, head of the Israeli parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, hailed the move as “the first and significant step towards real repair and the establishment of Israel in the territories of the homeland that belongs to it”.

Since the 1967 war, Israel has established around 140 settlements on land Palestinians see as the core of a future state. Besides the authorised settlements, groups of settlers have built scores of outposts without government permission.

Most world powers deem settlements built in the territory Israel seized in the 1967 war as illegal under international law and their expansion as an obstacle to peace, since they eat away at land the Palestinians claim for a future state.

The parliamentary vote, one of the first major steps by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-right coalition, was swiftly denounced by the Palestinians.

“This is a condemned and rejected decision and it is contrary to all resolutions of international legitimacy,” Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said.

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2023

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