Accessibility links

Jewish Settlements, Outposts Stumbling Blocks to Mideast Peace


During his recent visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories in January, President Bush called on Israel to honor its commitment to remove unauthorized settlements and outposts from the West Bank. But with more than 120 settlements and illegal outposts in the West Bank, dismantling any of them will not be easy. VOA's Jim Teeple traveled to the West Bank and has this report.

This is what happened the last time Israeli forces tried to evacuate an outpost in the West Bank.

This is Amona, outpost Israeli forces tried to dismantle two years ago. This footage shows the kind of resistance Israeli security forces might face if they return, or try and dismantle other outposts.

This is all that is left of the nine houses destroyed that day.

Ydit Levenger lost her house in the confrontation. Levenger called Amona home for nearly a decade. Now she lives in this nearby trailer, as do the other settlers who live in Amona. If they are forced to leave, they will probably move down to Ofra - a major West Bank settlement. She says, "For me it is not 10 years old, it is 4,000 years old. Abraham was here and Jacob dreamed his dream here. The prophets lived nearby here and I tell my children their stories."

Under a court order, no new settlers can move to Amona. But the court has yet to decide if Israeli troops will return to dismantle these trailers and force the settlers to leave.

Yisrael Medad, a spokesman for the West Bank settlers, says the Amona settlers should be allowed to stay, as should all Jews who decide they want to live in the West Bank.

"There is an argument about a dozen [outposts] and that is for the courts to decide,” he said. “But the principle is that there should not be any limit to having Jews live anywhere in the land of Israel, just as Arabs can live throughout the state of Israel anywhere they want to. The impediment to the peace process is the Arab intransigence to see Jews living anywhere in the state of Israel."

Back on the West Bank here in Silwad, people feel differently. Silwad is the Palestinian town closest to Amona and Ofra.

Palestinians used to walk down this road to their fields in what is now Ofra and Amona. Now the road is blocked and the only traffic are Israeli troops who Silwad residents say stage nightly raids in their town looking for militants and their supporters.

Mohammed Issa lives in Silwad but he says much of his family land now lies beyond the Israeli roadblock in Ofra.

Issa and his mother say they have not been able to visit their land since the 1970s when it was seized by Israel. He says these documents from the 1930s prove his ownership but Israeli authorities reject their validity because they are in his father's name, "We have taken them to court and we have the documents to prove this. They do not recognize my ownership of the land and tell me to bring my father who is dead."

Issam Aruru, who directs a Jerusalem legal aid and human rights center, tries to help people like Mohammed Issa fight their cases with the Israeli authorities. He says a Palestinian state will not be possible until settlements and outposts like Ofra and Amona are dismantled.

"When we talk about a viable Palestinian state these outposts affect movement in the West Bank,” Aruru said. “They affect the economic living of Palestinians. Many of them were established on agricultural land taken from Palestinians, so if we want a viable prosperous state we need to keep these resources."

These bleak hills are now the frontline in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Whether or not Israel's government can honor its pledge to dismantle outposts like Amona could determine whether or not Israelis and Palestinians can reach a peace agreement by the end of this year as their leaders have pledged to do.

XS
SM
MD
LG