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Poll: 44 Percent of West Bank Settlers Prepared to Leave Homes


With Israel's new government planning to relinquish large parts of the West Bank, a growing number of Jewish settlers are giving up the struggle for their homes. At the same time, Israel is strengthening settlements in areas it plans to keep.

A poll shows that 44 percent of Jewish settlers would be ready to leave their West Bank homes, without resistance, if the Israeli government decides to remove them. That's an increase of 25 percent over a year ago.

Times have changed since Israel dismantled all 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip last August. Back then, many settlers resisted the pullout.

There are few illusions this time around. With Prime Minister Ehud Olmert planning unilateral withdrawals from most of the West Bank, many settlers believe that fighting for their homes is a lost cause.

Parliamentarian Benny Eilon heads the far-right wing National Union party, which supports settlement in all the biblical land of Israel. He says many settlers do not want to be part of a project that is no longer supported by their government.

"They are strong, but even strong people can feel that this is a real crisis," he said. "And I hope, and I wish, that we'll overcome these obstacles."

While Mr. Olmert plans to remove dozens of settlements, his plan also calls for annexing major settlement blocs. Israel also intends to hold on to the strategic Jordan Valley in the West Bank as a buffer zone. With that in mind, officials have revealed that a new settlement is under construction in the Jordan Valley, to insure that the area is not handed over to the Palestinians.

Palestinians say the new settlement, called Maskiot, violates the "road map" peace plan, which calls for a settlement freeze. But with the Islamic militant group Hamas heading the Palestinian Authority, Israel believes the road map to peace is dead. So, it is making plans to draw its final border on its own.

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