Israel’s Knesset on Tuesday voted 31-18 to repeal articles of the 2005 Gaza Disengagement Law banning Israelis from entering and residing in four communities in northern Samaria.
The Gaza disengagement led to the destruction and evacuation of the Israeli communities of Sa-Nur, Homesh, Ganim and Kadim in northern Samaria, as well as 21 communities in the Gaza Strip.
In addition to rolling back the articles (23-27) banning movement into and out of, and residence in, northern Samaria, the amendment stipulates that Article 28, which canceled rights regarding real estate in vacated territory, will not apply to rights established there starting from the date of the bill’s approval.
“There is no longer any justification to prevent Israelis from entering and staying in the evacuated territory in northern Samaria, and therefore it is proposed to state that these sections [of the disengagement law] will no longer apply to the evacuated territory,” reads the introductory text to the bill.
The bill’s passage erases “to some extent” the “the stain on the garment of the State of Israel” left by the disengagement, it continues.
The Israel Defense Forces must now approve a military order allowing Israelis to return to those areas.
“Seventeen years of attempts, an uncompromising struggle, and a strong belief in the righteousness of this path converged into one moment when the Knesset plenum voted in favor of canceling the Disengagement Law,” Likud MK Yuli Edelstein, who sponsored the bill, said Tuesday.
“The State of Israel tonight began the recovery process from the deportation disaster,” he added in reference to the 2005 expulsion of some 8,000 Jews from their homes in Gaza and Samaria. “This is the first significant step towards real healing and settlement in Israel’s historical territories that belong to it.”
Edelstein sponsored the measure at the request of Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan, who was himself among those expelled from the Samaria communities.
“This is a struggle we have been waging for 18 years and we finally see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Dagan last month as the bill was making its way through Knesset committees.
“The deportees of [northern Samaria]—heroes who are standing with us as the tip of the spear in this struggle—will yet see recompense for their actions. The residents of the communities of Ganim, Kadim, Homesh and Sa-Nur will return within their borders,” he added, referencing Jeremiah 31:15-16.
A game of cat and mouse has taken place between the IDF and former residents and supporters since the disengagement, particularly at Homesh, where a yeshiva has operated out of caravans and tents. Troops have dismantled the yeshiva several times over the years.
The coalition agreement between Likud and the Religious Zionism Party, led by Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich, requires the government to allow for the Homesh Yeshiva to remain as a first step towards rebuilding the four communities.