The 2005 Gaza disengagement’s bastard child—the uprooting of four settlements in northern Samaria—was conceived in Washington.
The destruction of Gush Katif—among the crown jewels of the Israeli settlement enterprise—was the brainchild of then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his team. But it was the State Department and Condoleezza Rice who came up with the idea of removing Homesh and the other Samaria communities, as if it were an afterthought.
It is important to keep this in mind as we grapple with the harsh U.S. condemnation of Israel’s recent decision to lift the ban on Israelis entering Homesh.
This condemnation is a direct continuation of the public rebuke of the Israeli ambassador in Washington, and of U.S. President Joe Biden’s statement calling the decision “particularly provocative and counterproductive.”
Recalling how the process culminating with the “small disengagement” in Samaria began reveals the American criticism for what it is: adding insult to injury.
During George W. Bush’s first term, when Rice was National Security Advisor, she demanded that Sharon demonstrate his seriousness by adding a Judea and Samaria component to the Gaza disengagement plan.
Dov Weissglas, Sharon’s bureau chief at the time and one of the main proponents of the disengagement, once told me how the Samaria communities were added:
“The Americans were on the verge of issuing a letter that gave de facto recognition to settlement blocs and [constituted] a rejection of the return of [Palestinian] refugees to Israel. But they wanted to avoid a perception that Israel was sacrificing Gaza in order to keep Judea and Samaria. The Gaza pullout was not enough as far as they were concerned,” he said.
Then-head of Israel’s National Security Council Giora Eiland eventually, and reluctantly, had to offer a new map, that included northern Samaria.
Thus Israel added another fruitless offering to the Golden Calf of the Gaza disengagement.
Indeed, when the Knesset voted to repeal the articles of the disengagement law barring Israelis from entering the former Samaria settlements, it was noted that not only had none of the plan’s objectives materialized, but that the disengagement had resulted in “enormous damage.”
Lifting the restrictions on these areas in Samaria would “remove, to some extent, the national and moral stain on Israel,” said lawmakers.
What’s more, the U.S. gift for the Israeli move—the presidential letter recognizing the settlement blocs—turned out to have a shorter than expected shelf life, as the Obama administration simply ignored it. Just as the Biden administration is doing right now.
So now that Israelis are once again allowed to set foot in Homesh, we should remember who forbade it in the first place.
Originally published by Israel Hayom.