High Court Slams Israel for Allowing Settlers to Enter Evicted West Bank Settlement

Palestinians cannot farm their land as a result of the lack of enforcement by Israel Police and military

הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf
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Entrance to the demolished settlement of Homesh in the northern West Bank, last year.
Entrance to the demolished settlement of Homesh in the northern West Bank, last year. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf

The High Court of Justice criticized Israel on Monday for not enforcing an entry ban for Israelis to an evicted West Bank settlement.

As a result of the lack of enforcement by the Israel Police and the military, Palestinians cannot farm their land.

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Both Israel Police and the IDF fail to enforce the ban, which was issued to the former settlement of Homesh, located in the northern West Bank. Homesh was evacuated and demolished during the disengagement in 2005.

Supreme Court President Esther Hayut said during the hearing that the Palestinians have the right to access their lands and farm them.

Hayut added that the government has not provided them with necessary protection and people, in the area and are not supposed to there are interfering.

The demolished settlement of Homesh in the northern West Bank.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Justice Uzi Vogelman said not dealing with the continued violation of the law could well lead to “the disintegration of governmental authority.”

Justices Hayut, Vogelman and Yael Willner heard the petition, which was submitted in 2019 by the Yesh Din organization in the name of 13 Palestinians from the village of Burqa. The petitioners asked to enforce the Disengagement Law, which prohibits Israelis from being in the area of the demolished settlement as well as the order banning construction there.

In spite of the law, Israelis have regularly been at the site since the evacuation of Homesh and a yeshiva even operates there, which is considered an unauthorized outpost. The residents regularly put up temporary structures, and once every few months they are removed. Palestinians have told Haaretz in the past that the settlers are preventing them from accessing their land, attack them violently and throw stones at them.

Before the hearing, the government submitted a document surveying its enforcement efforts at Homesh in recent months. According to the document, in three cases demolition was conducted or Israelis were located at the site, but arrests were not made because the forces there at the time were too small. In at least one of the cases, in June, Israelis who were at Homesh caused disturbances. Vogelman said about this during the hearing that in many cases the force that arrived was numerically inferior, making it impossible to enter the area and deal with the matter. “If they come without adequate forces, is that enough?” he asked.

The government’s statement noted a number of other cases. In April, 15 Israelis were identified at the site and even photographed there – but over half a year after the incident, the police have not yet identified the suspects. Another incident occurred in August, when during the demolition of structures about 20 Israelis were present – and even though their pictures were given to police intelligence – they have not yet been located.

The state also said that the rabbi of the yeshiva at Homesh, Rabbi Elishama Cohen, was questioned under caution as a criminal suspect, but the case against him was closed for a lack of evidence. The state said that in total, during 2019 and 2020, 19 investigations were opened concerning illegal residence at Homesh. Eleven of the cases were closed, in four cases indictments were filed, and another four cases are still under investigation.

“We see that there is a regular and constant presence of dozens of Israelis at the site … Always, in an amazing way, the police arrive with numerical inferiority. The police never act to remove the Israelis from the site,” said Shlomi Zacharia, the lawyer for the plaintiffs.

Last week, the High Court ruled in a different case concerning Homesh. As part of the petition, filed on behalf of Yesh Din and the residents of Burqa, Zacharia asked the government to investigate the Midreshet Ma’amakim nonprofit organization, which is behind the crowdfunding project for the yeshiva at Homesh. The organization filed a complaint about the nonprofit and an investigation was opened, which was closed for the reason that no crime had been committed. On Wednesday, justices Vogelman, Daphne Barak-Erez and David Mintz ruled the police must reexamine their decision on the complaint.

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