Several dozen settlers squatted early on Tuesday at the site of a West Bank settlement Israel withdrew from as part of the 2005 Gaza disengagement, with several lawmakers from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party making a visit in a show of support.
Under the disengagement, the Sa-Nur settlement was one of several northern West Bank settlements evacuated in addition to all the settlements in the Gaza Strip.
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The squatters, a group of 20 families with children, including some former residents of Sa-Nur and Likud MK Ariel Kallner, spent the night at an old fortress at the site and began refurbishing it for longer habitation.
Israeli troops later arrived at the scene and the defense establishment called the demonstration a provocation, saying that the squatters would be evicted shortly. The squatters' presence at the site is in violation of a law passed at the time of the disengagement when the late Ariel Sharon was prime minister.
The army has evicted other settler groups that have attempted to move back onto the site in recent years. Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, arrived at the scene with four Likud lawmakers who came to show their support for the settlers: coalition whip Miki Zohar, Keti Shitrit, Etty Atia and Amit Halevi.
“We have come to Sa-Nur with a respected group of Knesset members,” Dagan said, “with a clear statement that a clear majority of the Israeli Knesset, as well as a clear majority of the Israel cabinet, supports rectifying the crime that expelled and uprooted the communities in northern Samaria and Gush Katif,” the latter being a reference to the bloc of settlements that were evacuated near the southern coast of the Gaza Strip.
“As someone who was expelled from Sa-Nur himself in the criminal expulsion 15 years ago, I am waiting for a phone call from the Prime Minister’s Office informing me that I can issue construction permits, and that it’s possible to return to Sa-Nur within a day because the area is under full Israeli control in any event,” Dagan said.
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In emotional tones, Zohar, the Knesset coalition whip, said he could see tears in Dagan’s eyes, “because this place is an inseparable part of us all.” The time has come, Zohar said, to redress the injustice that was done in evicting the settlement’s residents. “We need to do everything, I mean everything, to return here. And on this occasion, I call on the prime minister and all of the country’s leadership: Come, let’s take this important step, come, let’s restore our land to ourselves, to the Land of Israel.”
“We have come to support the young and brave spirit of those young people who arrived here today and who resolved that they are not leaving Sa-Nur,” Knesset member Shitrit said. “It’s true that we left temporarily, but now we have returned.”
Knesset member Atia called for the immediate annexation of the West Bank, demanded the immediate repeal of the 2005 disengagement law and the restoration of Sa-Nur. It is unacceptable, she said, not to give the people seeking to live in Sa-Nur what she called “humanitarian conditions,” including electricity and water supplies as well as immediate security protection.
Knesset member Halevi said the decision to evict the residents of the four West Bank communities as part of the 2005 disengagement was a statement that in addition to the Gaza Strip, “this area also does not belong to the Jewish people,” he said. “We are here to see to it that justice is done.”
Likud Knesset member Kallner, who spent the night at Sa-Nur, called the disengagement law antisemitic in that it bars Jews from living in a portion of the Land of Israel. “It has to be stricken from the statute books of the State of Israel.”
One of the squatters, Benny Gal, a former resident of Homesh, one of three other settlements evacuated in the area, said, "This is an opportunity to correct the injustice and to permit us to renew the residential presence at the site.”
Settlements champion MK Bezalel Smotrich of the Yamina party, tweeted, “Mistakes need to be corrected. The renewed residential presence in Sa-Nur is a necessary step from a moral, Zionist and security standpoint. There had been no rational reason to destroy a community through expulsion and there’s no rational reason not to allow it to be reestablished.”
Smotrich, a former cabinet minister, called on Netanyahu to permit the squatters to pursue their resettlement plans.