update deskIsrael News

US ‘deeply troubled’ by prospect of Israeli return to Homesh

Washington also slammed Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir's visit to the Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomes President Joe Biden at Ben-Gurion Airport, Oct. 18, 2023. Photo by Avi Ohayon/GPO.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomes President Joe Biden at Ben-Gurion Airport, Oct. 18, 2023. Photo by Avi Ohayon/GPO.

The United States on Monday harshly criticized Israel’s decision to walk back legislation barring Israeli citizens from entering Homesh in northern Samaria.

“We are deeply troubled by the Israeli government’s order that allows its citizens to establish a permanent presence in the Homesh outpost in the northern West Bank, which according to Israeli law was illegally built on private Palestinian land,” said U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.

On May 18, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, head of Israel Defense Forces Central Command, signed an order allowing Israelis to enter Homesh, one of the four Jewish communities in northern Samaria evacuated during the 2005 disengagement.

The directive also placed the area under the jurisdiction of the Samaria Regional Council.

The order was issued by Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in the wake of a Knesset vote in March to repeal articles of the 2005 “disengagement law” banning Israelis from entering Homesh, Sa-Nur, Ganim and Kadim, as well as 21 communities in the Gaza Strip.

“This order is inconsistent with both former [Israeli] Prime Minister [Ariel] Sharon’s written commitment to the Bush administration in 2004 and the current Israeli government’s commitments to the Biden administration. Advancing Israeli settlements in the West Bank is an obstacle to the achievement of a two-state solution,” said Miller on Monday.

Miller also slammed Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s visit on Sunday to the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site.

“We are also concerned by today’s provocative visit to the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif in Jerusalem and the accompanying inflammatory rhetoric,” Miller’s statement continued.

“This holy space should not be used for political purposes, and we call on all parties to respect its sanctity. More broadly, we reaffirm the longstanding U.S. position in support of the historic status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites and underline Jordan’s special role as custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem,” it said.

Ben-Gvir said during his visit to the site on Sunday that despite Hamas threats, Israel remains sovereign of the Temple Mount and all of Israel.

“I’m happy to ascend to the Temple Mount, the most important place for the people of Israel,” the Otzma Yehudit Party head said in a statement. “It should be said that the police are doing a wonderful job here and once again prove who owns the [the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem. All the threats from Hamas will not help—we are the owners of Jerusalem and the whole Land of Israel,” he continued.

Around 1,200 Jews visited the Temple Mount on Thursday, a day before Jerusalem Day. The annual flag march through the Old City and other festivities associated with the holiday, which marks the reunification of Israel’s capital during the 1967 Six-Day War, were also held on Thursday so as not to run up against the start of Shabbat.

Among those who visited the site on Thursday were several Knesset members, including Development of the Periphery, the Negev and the Galilee Minister Yitzhak Shimon Wasserlauf of Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit Party.

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