The possible evacuation of the illegal West Bank outpost of Homesh, which will be discussed in the High Court of Justice next week, has become a source of controversy in the Israeli government's coalition.
According to Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg of Meretz, the Homesh yeshiva, which stands at the site of the settlement of the same name that was evacuated in 2005, must be removed because "that's the law and also because it's in Israel's interest." Speaking Wednesday in an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth's Ynet website, Zandberg added: “We firmly oppose the establishment of new settlements and not upholding the law. We expect the defense minister to do what is legal and not allow violating the law.”
During a conference in the north on Wednesday, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked contradicted Zandberg, saying that the government "is doing everything so that Homesh will not be evacuated.
“We are doing everything so that Homesh will not be evacuated, the continued existence of the yeshiva there is symbolic and important," Shaked added. "This yeshiva has been removed a lot of times, we need to put an end to it and allow the yeshiva students to learn.”
The Palestinian owners of the land the yeshiva stands on filed a petition to the High Court of Justice requesting to remove the Israelis from Homesh in accordance with the Disengagement Law – which makes settling there illegal. The state must submit its position by Thursday.
The government's response is being formulated by the defense ministry's legal department, and ministers have limited influence on it. However, the political leadership's stance does carry weight.
According to sources involved in formulating the response, most of the pressure from ministers concerns timing. Publically, right-wing ministers are saying they are pushing to prevent the evacuation and left-wing ministers are asking to implement it; however in closed discussion, both sides prefer to postpone the decision.
On Monday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said “Homesh will be evacuated.” At the start of a Kahol Lavan faction meeting in the Knesset, Gantz said Homesh “cannot remain there because of the Disengagement Law. We are using our judgment in light of the incident in which Yehuda Dimentman was murdered, and we allowed the tents to remain at the site for now. When the time comes …”
During a Yesh Atid faction meeting on Monday, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid was asked for his position on the issue. “Illegal places do not need to exist,” he said.
In February, the state said it was allowing the yeshiva to operate in Homesh, while preventing new construction, and the decision on removing the yeshiva lies in Gantz’s hands.
In 2005, the settlement of Homesh was evacuated as part of a larger Israeli disengagement from Gaza and the northern West Bank. Since 2009, a yeshiva there has been intermittently built by settlers and demolished by Israel. Last year, Palestinian gunmen opened fire on students from the yeshiva, killing Yehuda Dimentman and wounding two others.