On Wednesday, March 22, 2023, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu affirmed his country’s “no intention” to rebuild evacuated settlements in the northern occupied West Bank, a day after a parliamentary vote in this regard raised Washington’s concern.
On Tuesday, the settlers celebrated the parliament’s abolition of part of a law that prevents them from residing in areas in the West Bank, according to a decision issued since 2005, when Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip, in addition to four settlements in the northern West Bank.
The law passed that year prevented the Israelis from staying in those areas, but the amendment that was passed on Monday night allows them to return to those settlements near the city of Nablus in the northern West Bank.
Netanyahu’s office said in a statement that the parliament’s vote annulled “a discriminatory and humiliating law that prohibits Jews from residing in areas in northern Samaria (the biblical name for the northern West Bank), which is part of our historic homeland.”
“However, the government does not intend to establish new communities in these areas,” the statement added.
Settlement is considered illegal under international law, but Israel believes that there is a difference between random outposts that are built without a permit and those that have been agreed upon, in which about 475,000 Israelis live.
The West Bank, where more than 2.9 million Palestinians live, is under Israeli military rule.
The new Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu has been sworn in and pledged to expand settlements throughout the West Bank.
According to the government statement, it will not allow settlers to return to the four sites that were vacated in 2005.
The government statement came after Washington expressed its concern and described the vote as a “provocative” step.
“The legislative changes announced today are provocative and counterproductive to efforts to restore some calm as we approach Ramadan and Easter,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said on Tuesday.
According to Patel, the Israeli move “clearly contradicts” the promises made by then Prime Minister (in 2005) Ariel Sharon to former US President George W. Bush, as well as the assurances made by the Netanyahu government just two days ago.
Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich welcomed the parliamentary vote, describing it as “historic” and considering it “enhancing our presence in Homesh.”
Last year, clashes broke out between Israeli security forces and Palestinians from the village of Burqa, who said they were the owners of the land on which the Homesh settlement was built.
The Palestinians continued to protest against the settlers’ return to the land, and they also appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court, which last January granted 90 days to justify the failure of the Israeli authorities to expel the settlers who returned to the site.