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Israelis, Palestinian West Bank Residents Say No Compromise on Settlements

  • Luis Ramirez

The presence of Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank is at the heart of the impasse facing negotiators. This is one of the key flashpoints in the conflict between Israeli settlers who are determined to stay and the Palestinian residents who are determined to see them leave.

The Kiryat Arba Jewish settlement sits next to the southern West Bank city of Hebron, long considered ground zero in the conflict between Israeli Jews – who settled here during the past century in the belief this land was given to them by God thousands of years ago – and Palestinians who are natives of this land.

Rabbi Eliezer Waldman

Rabbi Eliezer Waldman

Rabbi Eliezer Waldman is a former member of the Israeli parliament and one of Kiryat Arba's earliest residents. He says he is watching the negotiations closely, and hopes they fail.

"I would use the word "concerned" about these negotiations. Unfortunately, we have had experience with leaders who yield and compromise under pressure," said Waldman. "All the yielding and compromising, which was supposed to bring peace, has only brought more terror."

On the other side of a barbed wire fence that divides Kiryat Arba from Hebron lives Sheikh Abu Hader al Ja'abri, head of a prominent Palestinian clan. Known for his work in mediating conflicts between Palestinian residents and Jewish settlers from Kiryat Arba, Al Ja'abri hears every day from Palestinians who complain about the Jewish settlers encroaching on their land, harassing them, and barring them from accessing their fields.

He says Arab residents of Hebron are desperate for Palestinian leaders to reach an agreement that will improve their daily lives, but they are not very hopeful.

He says Palestinians are disappointed with the peace process and want results. He says negotiations that started decades ago have brought nothing. Al Ja'abri says Palestinians hoped for an independent state more than 10 years ago. Instead, he says there has been more fighting and life has become worse.

Head of a prominent Palestinian clan Sheikh Abu Hader al Ja'abri

Head of a prominent Palestinian clan Sheikh Abu Hader al Ja'abri

Al Ja'abri says he does not think peace is possible as long as Israeli settlement activity continues.

He says Palestinians will not accept any arrangement that allows for settlements. He says Palestinians might live with whatever agreement the leadership comes back with, but in view of what he says is the aggression that Arab residents endure from Jewish settlers and from the Israeli military that supports them, no one will accept living alongside the settlements.

Back at Kiryat Arba, Rabbi Waldman says settlers will view any attempt by the Israeli government to pull out of the West Bank as a crime.

"It cannot be done and will not be done," he added. "We have come back to Hebron, which has the deepest roots of a Jewish homeland, and we have come back to stay."

Israel has entered the negotiations without committing to extending a September 26 deadline on a settlement building freeze. A group representing West Bank settlers on Wednesday, said it was resuming construction of at least three structures inside settlements in defiance.

In Hebron and Kiryat Arba, Israeli and Palestinian residents are watching the negotiations closely.