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Article Israel: Amendment Law Voids Ban on Israelis Entering Northern West Bank

On March 22, 2023, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed the Implementation of the Disengagement Plan (Amendment No. 7), 5783-2023 (amendment law), amending the Implementation of the Disengagement Plan Law, 5775-2005, as amended.

The amendment law repeals provisions that previously banned Israelis from areas in the northern West Bank (Samaria) that were evacuated during Israel’s 2005 pullout. The legislation also voids the nullification of property rights of any Israeli individual; corporation; or governmental, regional, and local authorities in the evacuated areas that applied under the law.

Background to the Disengagement Plan Law

The “disengagement plan” refers to Israel’s 2005 unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank. The plan, initiated by then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, involved the eviction of Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip and territory in the northern West Bank. It touched off “major protests on the right and forced Sharon to break away from Likud and form his own party, Kadima.” According to one commentator, “[t]he disengagement cut a deep wound across Israeli society and remains a trauma for many in the settler community.”

The Implementation of the Disengagement Plan Law regulates the evacuation of Israelis and their assets from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank, the provision of “fair and proper compensation” to evacuees, and the provision of assistance to eligible persons during their eviction and relocation to new places of residence and employment. The law also regulates the terms of the “relocation of groups of settlers and of settlement cooperative societies to alternative locations.”

The Amendment Law

The amendment law changed the title of the Implementation of the Disengagement Plan Law, 5775-2005 to “Disengagement and the Compensation to Its Victims Law, 5775-2005.”

According to the explanatory notes of the amendment law draft bill, the evacuation of northern Samaria, where the settlements of Homesh, Ganim, Kadim, and Sa-Nur once stood, was based on a resolution adopted by Israel’s 30th government. With the passage of time, the bill’s drafters explained, “there was no longer any justification to prevent Israelis from entering and staying in the evacuated area.”

Homesh is one of the West Bank settlements that was forcibly evacuated as part of the disengagement plan. In spite of the prohibition on accessing the area and repeated evacuations by the military, Homesh settlers established an outpost with a yeshiva there. A commentator explained that “[t]he road to Homesh passes through Palestinian villages and is considered difficult for security. On the way to Homesh, there have been several shooting attacks over the years. One of the most memorable is the attack in which [yeshiva student] Yehuda Dimentman was murdered.”

In 2013, following a decision by Israel’s High Court of Justice, Israel’s Defense Forces revoked a seizure order that prevented Palestinians from accessing and working their land in the area. The Palestinian residents claimed, however, that they could not access and work their land because of the presence of settlers. In 2019, Palestinians and the nonprofit organization Yesh Din filed a petition to the court to enable them to reach the land.

On June 9, 2020, by an 8 to 1 majority, the High Court accepted a petition challenging the constitutionality of the Law on the Regulation of Settlement in Judea and Samaria, 5777-2017. The previous government headed by Yair Lapid had informed the court that Homesh would be evacuated at a time decided by the state due to security considerations.

State representatives have recently requested a three-month extension for responding to a petition to evacuate settlers from Homesh. They stated that the new government was committed to amending the Disengagement Plan Law and to regulating “the continuation of the study of Torah” at Homesh in accordance with commitments specified in its coalition agreements with other coalition members. The amendment law was intended to render the petition to evacuate the outpost in Homesh moot.

The adoption of the amendment law, however, may not prevent the evacuation of the outpost if the court decides that the amendment law violates the property rights of Palestinian owners. The passage of the government legal reforms package, which might block judicial review legislation adopted by a majority of Knesset members, could shield the amendment law from nullification by the High Court.

Ruth Levush, Law Library of Congress
April 17, 2023

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