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Israel to vote on proposed legislation to reconstruct four settlement communities in northern Samaria

Israel would be allowed to rebuild those communities that were demolished more than 17 years ago

Construction works for a new neighborhood in Neve Daniel, in the West Bank, October 24, 2021. Photo by Gershon Elinson/Flash90

Israel’s Ministerial Committee on Legislation will vote on Sunday to reverse the 2005 Disengagement Law regarding four communities located in the West Bank’s northern Samaria region. If approved by the Knesset, Israel would be allowed to rebuild those communities that were demolished more than 17 years ago.

The communities – Homesh, Sa-Nur, Ganim and Kadim – were destroyed in August 2005 after Israel was authorized to withdraw from the West Bank communities. Since then, the area can only be visited by obtaining official permission from the Israel Defense Forces.

Knesset Member Yuli Edelstein, chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, is pushing the new legislation and emphasized that Israel’s security is "of the utmost importance." He said one important reason to support the bill is that northern Samaria is “the most dangerous region” of the West Bank, which he referred to as Judea and Samaria.

“It’s well known that civilian settlements help improve security,” Edelstein said, claiming that terrorism had increased in those areas following the destruction of the four communities.

According to Edelstein, the proposed bill represents a symbolic step toward making things right with Israel’s history, as it relates to the Palestinian Authority.

“I consider the unilateral withdrawal [from Gaza] one of the worst decisions in Israeli history,” Edelstein stressed, and called for this bill, which will help reverse that “historic injustice.”

“I think we have to do the right thing and I am absolutely sure we are doing the right thing,” he added.

Those who support the bill believe the time is ripe to pass the legislation through, particularly given the far-right nature of the current government, led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and increased tensions in the region.

Yossi Dagan, Samaria Regional Council head, has been advocating to rebuild the four settlements for a long time and while Edelstein's bill is expected to have enough votes to pass, some believe Netanyahu may prevent the committee from voting on the issue, should he give in to pressure from the United States.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has spoken out against the legalizing reconstruction in those areas and asked Israel to refrain from any unilateral steps that would increase Israel’s presence in the West Bank, particularly in light of the recent rise in acts of terrorism. In turn, Netanyahu has promised the Washington that his hands would be “on the wheel,” despite the strong far-right influence in his current coalition.

National Missions Minister Orit Struck, however, dismissed the relevance of U.S. pressure.

“Our sovereignty over our land is important, as is what our government decides to do, and this government was not created to freeze settlement building,” adding that it was also not supposed to hand its territory over to a hostile group like the Palestinian Authority, she said during an interview with Kan broadcasting.

The passing of the reconstruction legislation would allow Israel to begin rebuilding all four communities in the same locations of the former settlements. While the area would once again be open to Israelis, there will likely be a long road of bureaucracy ahead before construction can actually begin.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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