Israel, West Bank Settlers Brace For Showdown | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
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Israel, West Bank Settlers Brace For Showdown

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Just two months ago, Aviela Deitch was proud to show off what residents had built on the hilltop outpost of Migron, just a few miles away from the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the West Bank.

At that time, the Israeli Supreme Court had already ruled that Migron was sitting on private Palestinian property and had ordered Migron settlers to evacuate.

But Deitch, who grew up in Milwaukee, was confident everything would work out for the best. Israel's government was hammering out a deal with Migron residents to build them houses on a nearby hilltop, and let them stay in Migron till 2015, when the new homes would be ready.

But the Supreme Court rejected that arrangement and said the settlers needed to leave by Aug. 1.

"We're all still in different levels of shock, disappointment, sadness," said Deitch.

A Major Point Of Friction

The Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank have created a fault line among Israelis, with some supporting them, and others believing they pose an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians.

The Israeli government has established more than 100 settlements throughout the territory. In addition, there are dozens of unauthorized outposts like Migron.

The Palestinians, meanwhile, say all of the settlements violate international law and must be removed to clear the way for a Palestinian state that would include the West Bank.

Deitch says the Israeli government is pulling out the rug from under their feet. She acknowledges the authorities never gave the outpost an official green light, but they provided the settlers with nearly everything else they needed.

"Electricity. Water. Phone service. We flush our toilets and it goes into the sewage. All of that was brought to us by the government," she said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he respects the court's decision to evacuate the settlers. But it's unclear where Migron residents will go when they're kicked out.

Israeli authorities are now drafting possible solutions, like transferring them to a temporary trailer park until more permanent homes are built. Migron residents say past experience teaches them that's a trap.

Settlers Recall Gaza Evacuation

Haim Teitelbaum told reporters this week that the August deadline for leaving Migron coincides with the seven-year anniversary of another settlement pullout – Israel's evacuation of settlers from the Gaza Strip.

In 2005, Israel removed the settlers from Gaza and offered them financial compensation for the homes they were leaving. Some moved into trailers, and demanded that the government find them more permanent housing. But that took years, and some are still in temporary dwellings.

"The settlers from Gaza were dealt with unjustly. We will not agree to those kinds of initiatives," he said.

Here's another scenario Migron settlers want to avoid: the kind of violent confrontation that took place in 2006, in the nearby outpost of Amona.

Israel ruled that settlers there had built on private Palestinian land and ordered some of their homes demolished. Thousands of settlers faced off with Israeli officers wielding clubs. Many were injured. But most of the outpost remained intact. This year, Amona faces an eviction notice too.

The outpost's secretary, Avner Goldschmidt, plays this footage for visitors in a shack right next to the site of the demolished homes. He says it serves as a warning to Israel if it doesn't come up with proper solutions for Amona or neighboring Migron.

"I am sure residents will fight with the same determination if they are forced to evacuate like this," he said. "They won't leave with their heads down."

Youths Are More Confrontational

Back in Migron, Aviela Deitch says she and the other residents aren't interested in fighting the authorities. She says if they have to leave by August, they will. They're not anti-establishment, like some settlers in the West Bank. The vast majority of Migron's men have served in army combat units. They're committed to the state. But she fears that commitment isn't shared by the younger generation of settlers, including her two sons.

"My disappointment translates into their anger," she says. "They are teenagers, they should be idealistic. Their idealism has been very much kicked in the teeth."

If there's a skirmish between settlers and officers evacuating the outpost, she'd be upset if one of her sons joined the fight – but she says she wouldn't be surprised.

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