Israeli settlers moved the yeshiva of the West Bank outpost of Homesh overnight Sunday from the private Palestinian land it was originally constructed on to state-owned land a few meters away. The move, greenlighted by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, was carried out discreetly during the night.
The settlers dismantled the tents and makeshift construction that housed the yeshiva and trailered the materials to the new location. It was the first time since the 2005 Gaza disengagement that more substantial construction effort has taken place in Homesh.
Homesh was one of the four West Bank settlements along with Ganim, Kadim and Sa-Nur evacuated during Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. While the disengagement law prohibited Israelis from entering the four sites, settlers have repeatedly done so over the years, especially Homesh, where they set up a makeshift yeshiva. Efforts by the settlers to maintain the structure have intensified since December 2021, when settler Yehuda Dimentman was killed by Palestinian assailants upon leaving the site.
On March 21, the Knesset repealed part of the 2005 disengagement law, allowing Israelis to visit the four dismantled sites but not to resettle them. The move, in accordance with the coalition agreement between the ruling Likud party and Religious Zionism party, was seen as a great victory for the pro-settlement camp despite heavy criticism from the United States and the European Union.
The State Department said that Washington was “extremely troubled” by the new legislation, calling it “provocative” for violating commitments given to the United States by the Israeli governments under Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu and summoning Israel’s ambassador to Washington. In reaction, Netanyahu's office stated that Israel will not establish new settlements in the region.
Even after the repeal, the Defense Ministry still prohibited settlers from entering Homesh for security reasons until last week. On May 18, Israel Defense Forces Central Commander Yehuda Fox issued an order allowing Israelis to enter the area, to more criticism from the Biden administration and European leaders.
The Yesh Din human rights group and residents of the nearby Palestinian village of Burqa recently petitioned the High Court to evacuate students staying at the yeshiva on the grounds that it was constructed on private Palestinian land.
According to a Ynet report, teams from the offices of Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and Defense Minister Gallant have worked together over the past few weeks to move the yeshiva to state-owned land nearby. Construction work to level the ground in preparation for the move was done last week without local permits, according to Haaretz.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said Monday morning, "The establishment of the yeshiva in Homesh is an exciting historical moment and symbolizes the transition from a government of destruction to the building and development of the entire State of Israel. On this occasion, I congratulate Knesset member Limor Son Har-Melech, a former resident of Homesh, who initiated and passed the amendment for the repeal of the racist law for expelling Jews from northern Samaria, which makes it possible to return and flourish in these places."
Yesh Din said on Monday, "The relocation of the yeshiva only aggravates the situation. Its new location still prevents the Palestinians from reaching their land and continues their dispossession of the land. Instead of evacuating the outpost immediately, Israel rewards trespassers."