Israel's settlement burden

Jewish settlements are one of the most contentious legacies of the 1967 war.

    Maale Adumim, one of the West Bank's largest
    and most controversial settlements [EPA]

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    Shlomo Gazit was working in military intelligence at the time. He believed that Israel should offer to withdraw from newly captured territory - in exchange for full, comprehensive peace treaties with its neighbours.    

    "On June 9 1967 we drew up a document giving our view of what should be our policy following the military victory," he says.

    "That assessment, those recommendations are valid to this very day."

    Israel's political leaders were uncertain about what to do with the newly conquered lands. In the meantime, a group of ideological Jews started to establish facts on the ground - in the shape of the first settlements.

    'Call from God'

    Settlements - facts and figures

    - Between 1967 and 1977 Israel constructed 30 settlements with more than 5,000 settlers, mostly in the West Bank

    Israel pulled out of all 17 Gaza settlements and four West Bank settlements in August 2005

    - Now there are about 440,000 settlers in total in the West Bank and East Jerusalem

    - Settlements cost the Israeli government about $556m per year

    - Israel's wall around occupied West Bank will stretch for more than 700km, looping around most settlements there

    - Based on the current plan, 8.6 per cent of the West Bank falls on the Israeli side of the wall

    -  Wall sections around the Ariel and Maale Adumin settlements most contentious as cut deep into the West Bank, dividing it from East Jerusalem

    Source: Peace Now

    Daniela Weiss was among those first settlers. She led a group of Israelis on a march from the cities of the coastal plain to the hills of the West Bank.

    "We were part of a movement," she says. "The miracle of the Six Day War was a call from God to return to the birthplace of our nation, which is here on these hills."

    Those settlements have since swollen and burgeoned. 

    At present, more than 400,000 Israelis live on occupied Arab land, and the settlements in the West Bank are a major obstacle to an agreement with the Palestinians based on exchanging land for peace.

    "I believe that both parties are quite ready to accept a compromise," says General Gazit.

    "Unfortunately we do not have the strong leadership that's capable of doing it at present."

    Holding on

    Hardcore settlers are taking advantage of this lack of leadership. They have heard politicians talk about disengagement from the West Bank but they do not intend to go anywhere.  

    "I am not discouraged in the least," Weiss says.

    "I am aggravated that a Jewish prime minister can think in terms of transferring Jews in their homeland.  But I am not intimidated."

    The military victory of 1967 has left successive Israeli governments with a burden. 

    As long as the West Bank remains occupied, there can be no real state for the Palestinians - and no real peace for the Israelis.

    The Jewish settlement of Kfar Adumim located 10km east of Jerusalem in the Judea desert in the West Bank [AFP]


    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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