Al-Jazeera / May 22, 2023
The reproach comes after months of escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians.
The United States has rebuked Israel over an order allowing Jewish settlers to establish a permanent presence in an outpost north of the occupied West Bank that Washington warned the Israeli government it should avoid legitimizing.
The chief of the Israeli military’s Central Command signed an order on Thursday that allows Israelis to enter the Homesh area near Nablus, paving the way for a formal settlement to be built there, according to a report in the Times of Israel.
In March, the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, approved an amendment allowing Israelis to resettle four illegal settlements in the northern occupied West Bank, including Homesh, as the far-right government that took office last year moves ahead with legislation to legalize nine outposts and expand existing settlements.
The US State Department has repeatedly called on Israel to refrain from any moves that escalate tensions with Palestinians, such as formalizing settler outposts.
It has specifically warned it over Homesh, which was evacuated in 2005 but has become a flashpoint between Palestinians and Israeli settlers, who have consistently attempted to re-establish the site permanently.
“We are deeply troubled by the Israeli government’s order that allows its citizens to establish a permanent presence in the Homesh outpost in the northern West Bank, which according to Israeli law was illegally built on private Palestinian land,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement on Sunday.
The order is inconsistent with Israeli government commitments made in 2004 and more recently to Biden administration officials, Miller said.
The reproach comes after months of escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians that has tested ties between Washington and its main ally in the Middle East.
Homesh was originally built in 1978 as an Israeli military base on private Palestinian land and handed over to settlers in 1980. It was then evacuated in 2005 as part of then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s “disengagement plan”.
While all Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are considered illegal under international law, the settlement of Homesh is also considered illegal under Israeli law because the Supreme Court ruled that the land belonged to private owners from Burqa.
Despite the evacuation of the outpost, the Israeli army maintains a military base in the location, and settlers are allowed to access it, while Palestinian landowners are forbidden from doing so.
In 2007, Jewish settlers established a religious school, or yeshiva, at the outpost. The school continues to operate, and settlers are allowed to camp at the outpost but not have permanent homes.
Israeli settlements are fortified Jewish-only housing complexes built on Palestinian land in violation of international law. As many as 750,000 Jewish settlers live in at least 250 illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
SOURCE: AL-JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES
US ‘deeply troubled’ by Israel’s order on West Bank Jewish settler outpost
The National / May 22, 2023
Military chief allows Israelis to enter Homesh outpost area, paving way for formal settlement.
The US State Department said on Sunday it was “deeply troubled” by an order by the Israeli government allowing Jewish settlers to establish a permanent presence in an occupied West Bank outpost.
The Israeli military’s Central Command chief signed an order on Thursday that allows Israelis to enter the Homesh Jewish outpost area, near Nablus, the Times of Israel reported.
It paves the way for a formal settlement to be built there.
“We are deeply troubled by the Israeli government’s order that allows its citizens to establish a permanent presence in the Homesh outpost in the northern West Bank, which according to Israeli law was illegally built on private Palestinian land,” said State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.
The State Department has urged Israel to avoid actions – including formalizing settler outposts – that could escalate tensions with Palestinians.
It has in the past warned Israel against outposts in Homesh.
The order is inconsistent with Israeli government commitments made in 2004 and more recently to officials in President Joe Biden’s administration, Mr Miller said.
Israel’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the order in question was intended to allow Israelis to keep attending an existing religious school in Homesh.
The official said the government has no intention of rebuilding the settlement or allowing Israeli presence on private Palestinian land.
It comes after months of escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians that have tested ties between Washington and its main ally in the Middle East.
Earlier on Sunday, Israeli Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, part of a far-right government that came to power in December, visited Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third-holiest site in Islam.
He declared Israel was “in charge” of the site.
Mr Miller said the US was concerned about the “provocative visit” and “accompanying inflammatory rhetoric.”
“This holy space should not be used for political purposes, and we call on all parties to respect its sanctity,” he said.
West Bank: US rebukes Israel over Jewish settlers’ return to evacuated outpost
Middle East Eye / May 22, 2023
Washington says it’s ‘deeply troubled’ by recent decision and expresses concern over Ben-Gvir’s ‘inflammatory rhetoric’.
The United States criticized Israel on Monday for allowing the return of Jewish settlers to an abandoned West Bank outpost and for the “provocative visit” to Al-Aqsa Mosque by Itamar Ben-Gvir on Sunday.
In a press release on Monday night, US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Washington was “deeply troubled” by Israel’s recent decision to allow settlers to establish a permanent presence in the Homesh site, which is built illegally on Palestinian land.
The outpost was dismantled in 2005 as part of then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s unilateral disengagement plan.
However, since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to office last year, his government – which is dominated by settler leaders – has sought to promote settlement activity in the occupied West Bank.
Israeli lawmakers approved legislation in March that would allow four abandoned Jewish settlements in the West Bank to be re-established, including Homesh, Sa-Nur, Ganim and Kadim.
On Monday, the Israeli military signed off on an order allowing Israelis to return to the evacuated outposts, paving the way for a formal settlement to be built there in another blow to Palestinian hopes for statehood which could raise tensions already at boiling point.
“We are deeply troubled by the Israeli government’s order that allows its citizens to establish a permanent presence in the Homesh outpost,” Miller said in a statement.
“This order is inconsistent with both former Prime Minister Sharon’s written commitment to the Bush Administration in 2004 and the current Israeli government’s commitments to the Biden Administration,” the State Department spokesman added.
The settlement of Homesh, built on privately owned Palestinian land, is one of the most politically charged outposts and symbolic hilltops in the West Bank.
Despite not being allowed to establish a permanent presence there since 2005, settlers have regularly flaunted their presence on the hilltop, often guarded by Israeli soldiers.
Nearly 700,000 Jewish settlers live in more than 250 Jewish settlements and outposts across the West Bank and East Jerusalem in violation of international law.
Meanwhile, far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich – who is responsible for the occupied West Bank civil administration – is said to be laying the groundwork for doubling the West Bank settler population, according to Haaretz newspaper.
Miller also criticized Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s far-right national security minister, for his “provocative visit” to Al-Aqsa Mosque on Sunday morning “and the accompanying inflammatory rhetoric”.
Ben-Gvir toured the Jerusalem site under heavy security protection and declared: “We’re in charge here.”
“This holy space should not be used for political purposes, and we call on all parties to respect its sanctity,” the US statement said.
“We reaffirm the longstanding US position in support of the historic status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites and underline Jordan’s special role as custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.”
Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is officially under Jordanian custodianship, is an Islamic site where unsolicited visits, prayers and rituals by non-Muslims are forbidden, according to decades-long international agreements.
Israeli groups, in coordination with authorities, have long violated the delicate arrangement and facilitated raids of the site and performed prayers and religious rituals.