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US blasts Disengagement Law repeal, summons Israeli ambassador

Netanyahu issues a statement: 'The government has no intention of building new communities in these areas'

Israeli soldiers walk by the water tower on the ruins of the evacuated settlement of Homesh, Aug. 17, 2009. Homesh was one of four West Bank settlements that Israel evacuated during the disengagement. (Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

In an unusually sharp U.S. rebuke, Washington summoned Israeli Ambassador Michael Herzog to protest against the Israeli Knesset’s recent decision to repeal the 2005 Disengagement Law. If implemented, it would enable the resettlement of Jewish communities in northern Samaria that the Jewish state evacuated, in addition to its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005. 

Following the meeting between Herzog and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, a readout stated that the senior U.S. official “conveyed US concern” regarding the Knesset’s decision to rescind the Disengagement Law from 2005. 

The U.S. State Department said Sherman and Herzog “discussed the importance of all parties refraining from actions or rhetoric that could further inflame tensions leading into the Ramadan, Passover and Easter holidays.” This was likely a thinly veiled reference to Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s recent controversial statements.

In early March, Smotrich called to “wipe out” Huwara, a Palestinian town in the West Bank where a terrorist murdered two Israeli brothers.

More recently, Smotrich called the term “Palestinian” an invention, which enraged the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Saudi Arabia

During a daily briefing with the press, U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel stressed that the U.S. opposes the expansion of Jewish communities in the disputed territories. Like much of the world, Washington believes the existence of Jewish communities in the West Bank undermines the prospects for a viable two-state solution. 

“We have been clear that advancing settlements is an obstacle to peace and the achievement of a two-state solution. This certainly includes creating new settlements, building or legalizing outposts, or allowing building of any kind on private Palestinian land located deep in the West Bank or adjacent to Palestinian communities — all of which would be facilitated by this legal change,” said Patel. 

Herzog, the brother of the Israeli President Isaac Herzog, was appointed Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. by the former Bennett-Lapid government in 2021.

Meanwhile, in Israel, Jewish Power party Knesset Member Limor Son Har-Melech openly called to repeal the Gush Katif Disengagement Law, which led to the evacuation of thousands of Jews from now-abandoned communities in the Gaza Strip. 

“We have infinite joy for a historic correction, but we must continue the mission until it is completed,” said Har-Melech in a Knesset speech.

“Our task now is to ensure that the four settlements (in the northern West Bank) that were evacuated are restored, and our other mission is to return to those in Gush Katif and rebuild them,” Har-Melech added. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office reacted to the U.S. rebuke of the Israeli ambassador, saying that the Knesset decision was done to right an injustice but that it would lead to no new settlements:

“The decision of the Knesset to cancel parts of the Disengagement Law brings to an end discriminatory and humiliating legislation that prevented Jews from living in areas of the northern West Bank, which is part of our historic homeland,” the statement said. “However, the government has no intention of building new communities in these areas.” 

The statement also added that even several members of the opposition had supported the law.

The summoning of the Israeli ambassador by the U.S. marked the first time in more than a decade that an Israeli envoy to Washington had been called in for a rebuke, showing a further worsening of relations between the Biden administration and Netanyahu’s government.

Netanyahu has been waiting for much longer than usual for an official invitation to the White House, as the Biden administration signals its displeasure with the new Israeli government’s policies.

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

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