US ‘deeply troubled’ by reversal of ban on Israelis returning to demolished Samaria town

Army commander signs order ending prohibition on Israelis entering the site of the former town of Homesh – evacuated in the 2005 Disengagement – drawing criticism from the US Embassy in Jerusalem.

By World Israel News Staff

The United States lamented a decision by the Israeli military late last week ending an 18-year-old policy barring Israeli Jews from visiting the ruins of a former Israeli town in Samaria.

On Thursday, Major General Yehuda Fuchs, the chief of the IDF’s Central Command, granted final authorization to a Defense Ministry order dropping the ban on Israelis traveling to an area in northern Samaria which included the town of Homesh.

Homesh was one of four Israeli towns in northern Samaria which were evacuated by the Sharon government as part of the Disengagement Plan in August 2005.

Under the Disengagement Law, passed by the Knesset in the lead up to the evictions in northern Samaria and the Gaza Strip, Israeli civilians were barred from visiting the areas targeted for evacuation.

Over the past 18 years, groups of Israeli activists – including some former residents evacuated in 2005 – have attempted to visit or even resettle the former towns in northern Samaria.

A small outpost community – centered around a yeshiva – was established in Homesh, only to be demolished repeatedly by Israeli security forces.

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Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich (Religious Zionist Party) celebrated the decision Saturday night.

“We promised to authorize the continued Torah study at the yeshiva in Homesh, and we are fulfilling that,” Smotrich tweeted.

Fuchs’ order also places Homesh back under Israeli municipal jurisdiction, Smotrich noted.

“It adds the town to the territory of the Samaria Regional Council to enable the renewed planning for the yeshiva.”

Yossi Dagan, the mayor of the Samaria Regional Council, celebrated the end of the ban.

“This is a holiday. An important day in the history of the State of Israel. A day when historical justice was done for one of the greatest injustices in this country to the Land of Israel and to Israeli citizens.”

Last week, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (Likud) signed the preliminary order authorizing Fuchs to end the ban on Israelis in Homesh.

The U.S. Embassy in Israel lamented the move, telling the Times of Israel in a report published early Sunday morning that the U.S. is “deeply troubled” by the decision.

“The United States strongly urges Israel to refrain from allowing the return of Israeli settlers to the area covered by the legislation passed in March, consistent with both former PM Sharon’s and the current Israeli government’s commitments to the United States.”

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“We have been clear that advancing settlements is an obstacle to peace and the achievement of a two-state solution. This certainly includes creating new settlements, building or legalizing outposts, or allowing building of any kind on private Palestinian land or deep in the West Bank adjacent to Palestinian communities.”

In March, the Knesset voted to repeal the Disengagement Law in northern Samaria, paving the way for Fuchs’ order rescinding the ban.

Despite the end of the ban, the government has taken no steps to rebuild the town of Homesh, nor indicated it has any plans to do so in the near future.