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Netanyahu hails partial repeal of ‘discriminatory’ disengagement law

Bucking U.S. criticism, the Israeli prime minister said the “humiliating” legislation barred Jews from living in their “historic homeland,” but stressed that Israel has no plans to build new communities there.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, March 13, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, March 13, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed on Wednesday the Knesset’s partial repeal of the “discriminatory and humiliating” 2005 Disengagement Law that expelled Jews from their “historical homeland.”

The Israeli parliament on Tuesday voted to repeal articles of the law banning Israelis from entering and residing in parts of northern Samaria. The disengagement also led to the destruction and evacuation of 21 communities in the Gaza Strip.

“The Knesset decision to repeal parts of the Disengagement Law brings to an end a discriminatory and humiliating law that barred Jews from living in areas in northern Samaria, part of our historic homeland. It is no coincidence that senior figures in the opposition have supported this law over the years,” Netanyahu said in a statement on Wednesday.

“However, the [Israeli] government has no intention of establishing new communities in these areas,” he added.

In addition to rolling back the articles (23-27) banning movement into and out of, and residence in, northern Samaria, the Knesset amendment stipulates that Article 28 of the disengagement law, 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.

In response to the passing of the bill, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Herzog was summoned on Tuesday to the U.S. State Department for a meeting with Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman, who “conveyed concern” regarding the development.

The two “discussed the importance of all parties refraining from actions or rhetoric that could further inflame tensions leading into the Ramadan, Passover, and Easter holiday,” according to the State Department.

State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said earlier on Tuesday that Washington was “extremely troubled” by the Knesset vote.

Patel told reporters that the move was “inconsistent with Israel’s recent commitments to de-escalating Israeli-Palestinian tensions. Just two days ago, Israel reaffirmed its commitment to stop discussion of any new settlements for four months and to stop authorization of any outposts for six months.”

The State Department spokesman was seemingly referring to an agreement of Israeli and Palestinian officials in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on March 19. At the security summit, Israel agreed to “stop discussion of any new settlement units for four months and to stop authorization of any outposts for six months,” according to a joint statement released by the State Department.

The March 19 statement added that both sides “agreed to develop a mechanism to curb and counter-violence, incitement and inflammatory statements and actions.”

Patel spoke of the changes coming “at a time of heightened tensions” and being “particularly provocative and counterproductive to efforts to restore some measures of calm as we head into Ramadan, Passover and the Easter holidays.”

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