In a vote late on Monday evening, a bill to cancel part of the Disengagement Law passed in the Knesset in its first reading, with 40 MKs voting in favor of the cancellation and 17 voting against. The bill was proposed by MKs Yuli Edelstein (Likud) and Limor Sonn Har Melech (Otzma Yehudit).
The bill specifies that the prohibition on entering and remaining in northern Samaria that was part of the original Disengagement Law will be overturned. The current version of the new legislation differs from a previous version, making it clear that the cancellation of prohibitions refers only to northern Samaria and not to Gaza.
The preamble to the new law reads: "With the passage of years, in the opinion of those presenting this law, there is no longer any justification in prohibiting Israelis from entering and remaining in the evacuated areas in northern Samaria, and therefore this proposal establishes that these clauses shall no longer apply to the evacuated area."
The legislation now returns to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee for further discussion, including on whether to change the bill's name to reflect that it does not apply to Gaza. Other amendments likely to be discussed are ones that relate to the abolition of the property rights of Israelis evacuated from the areas in question, transfer of land, and evacuation of moveable property.
When the legislation was first approved in committee stage last week, right-wing Knesset members gathered together outside the committee room, along with Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan and former residents of northern Samaria towns Homesh and Sa Nur, to toast the development and recite a Psalm of praise and thanksgiving.
"This is a historic and emotional day," said MK Limor Sonn Har Melech. "After 17 1/2 years of expulsion and destruction, the State of Israel is changing direction and taking action to renew the settlement of northern Samaria. Step by step, we are returning home, to Homesh, Sa Nur, Ganim, and Kadim," she concluded, referencing the Samarian communities that were evacuated almost two decades ago.
Yossi Dagan, who was himself expelled from Sa Nur, was present during the committee discussion and vote, and read from Sefer Yehezkel (the Book of Ezekiel) the passage describing the prophet's vision of the valley of dry bones. In a voice choked with emotion, Dagan said, "Today, we are correcting a terrible and criminal injustice that was done to the Land of Israel and the People of Israel. Even if it is delayed, justice will eventually be done.
"Many people, especially those on the far-left who are also our brothers, wrote us off, but we have grown stronger and we will return and rebuild our communities," he added.
MK Zeev Elkin (National Unity) was the sole member of the opposition to vote in favor of the new law. "I congratulate committee chairman Yuli [Edelstein] as well as Limor [Sonn Har Melech] for advancing this law," he said. "I had the privilege of submitting this legislation in the past, and I am very glad that it is finally happening. I opposed the Disengagement; it was a mistake. The situation there today is ridiculous, where someone who enters those areas can be sentenced to two years behind bars. This amendment is both logical and correct."