Neither vicious settler violence nor unusually blatant Biden administration criticism have given the Israeli government pause as it goes ahead with its irresponsible decision to rebuild the settlement at Homesh, in the northern West Bank.
Last week, despite US requests to cease and desist the process of rebuilding the settlement (“The Homesh outpost in the West Bank is illegal; it is illegal even under Israeli law,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price), the government of Israel went ahead and connected this rogue settlement to the water grid. Haaretz ran a poignant editorial, commenting that “in his sixth term as prime minister, Netanyahu believes that the international community in general and the United States in particular talk a lot but in fact let Israel do whatever it pleases in the occupied territories.” And Israel’s leading strategic affairs think tank, the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS) published an unusually scathing report on the topic of Homesh, concluding that the government of Israel “prefers to undermine the rule of law, violate Israel’s commitments to the United States, and pay the price for the escalation of terrorism in the northern West Bank in order to advance the ideology of the radical right wing in the government, which seeks to chain the West Bank forever to the State of Israel and thwart any chance of a political-territorial compromise with the Palestinians.”
As the State Department pointed out, the Israeli government’s decision to rebuild in Homesh is a violation of a bilateral US- Israeli agreement, one signed between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President George W. Bush in 2004. The US administration has a special interest in this affair.
The final word has not been said on Homesh, neither by the Palestinians of the adjacent village of Burka, who cannot reach their lands due to this disgrace and whose privately-owned lands are likely to be seized to allow the settlers access to the site, nor by our friends at Peace Now and other peace organizations. Nor by Israel’s Supreme Court, which will have to examine the legality of the government’s conduct on Homesh.
We hope that the Biden administration, too, has not said its final word on Homesh. We hope it will follow up on its stern reaction to the Israeli government’s conduct in this scandal and confront Netanyahu on his West Bank policy with real and meaningful consequences.