Monday, July 27, 2009

In 2 West Bank Settlements, Sign of Hope for a Deal

Beitar Illit is a growing ultra-Orthodox settlement whose residents may be open to compromise with the Palestinians.

Unlike settlers who believe they are continuing the historic Zionist mission of reclaiming the Jewish homeland, most ultra-Orthodox do not consider themselves settlers or Zionists and express no commitment to being in the West Bank, so their growth in these settlement towns, situated just inside the pre-1967 boundary, could be redirected westward to within Israel.

Their location also means it may be possible, in negotiations about a future Palestinian state, to redraw the boundary so the settlements are inside Israel, with little land lost to the Palestinians. And the two towns alone account for half of all settler growth, so if removed from the equation, the larger settler challenge takes on more manageable proportions.

“If I thought this was a settlement, I would never have come here,” said Yaakov Guterman, 40, the mayor of Modiin Illit and a grandfather of three, his Orthodox fringes hanging from his belt, his side locks curled behind his ears. Asked about the prospect of a Palestinian state rising one day on his town line, he said: “We will go along with what the world wants. We have gone through the Holocaust and know what it means to have the world against us. The Torah says a man needs to know his place.”

There are nuances and fine details to every issue, and this part of the 'settlement question' and peace with Palestinians is not part of the daily fare.

A Different Kind of Settlement

The ultra-Orthodox inhabitants often express contempt for the settler movement, with its vows never to move. The people here, who shun most aspects of modernity, came for three reasons: they needed affordable housing no longer available in and around Jerusalem or Tel Aviv; they were rejected by other Israeli cities as too cult-like; and officials wanted their presence to broaden Israel’s narrow border.

Emphasis added. Emphasis needed.

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