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Israeli Settlements in the West Bank and the Security Wall

Israel

Israelis continue to build fortified settlements on the West Bank, which the Palestinians consider their land. A long Israeli-built security wall has caused further friction. We discuss the divisive situation with Israeli settlers and Palestinian residents.

Complete Video Script

Control of land is the crux of the problem between Israelis and Palestinians and occupying the high ground is more than a military issue — it’s a civilian one as well.

Israel is developing settlements — fortified communities on the tops of hills — deep into the West Bank. Essentially Israeli towns, these controversial developments reach far into what Palestinians consider their territory.

Many Israelis make the case that developing this land is justified because the land was unused. And many Jews believe it’s God’s will that they occupy Biblical Judea and Samaria, which is what they call the West Bank.

Roughly half a million Israeli Jews now live in settlements in Palestine. These planned and gated communities come with all the comforts. And, with Israeli government subsidies for housing and transportation, young Jewish families can afford to live here and commute from West Bank settlements back into Israel.

As in other democracies, there are disagreements over government policy, and many moderate Israelis oppose construction of settlements in the West Bank. But government policies still allow the ongoing construction of these settlements.

I chatted with several settlers to get their perspectives. And, to get another narrative, I talked with my Palestinian guides — both residents of the West Bank.

Rick: Now, there’s a lot of confusion in America about settlements and so on. Is this a “settlement,” is this what you would consider a settlement?
Man in café: Well the word “settlement” has all kinds of connotations. We consider it a city. And just like Seattle’s a city so is Ma’aleh Adumim a city. There is some dispute in the world as to what this should be and what its status is…

Rick: Are you “settlers”? Or what do you, how do you consider the name?
First man on balcony: I don’t have name for that. We live in Israel, this is Israel.
Rick: Yeah, so this is your town.
First man on balcony: Yeah, this is my country.
Second man on balcony: Exactly.
First man on balcony: Now what is Ma’aleh, what is Jordan Valley? It’s Israel; everything is Israel.
Rick: Israelis I’ve heard would say, “Well, the land is unused anyway, it sits on the top of the hills.”
Husam: Yeah that’s a good — a good excuse, but why it’s unused — because we are not allowed to use it.

Kamal: I’m sure you have a thousand dollars in your bank account. And you’re not using it, you know? So it’s still your money, you know?
Rick: That’s a good analogy.
Kamal: Yeah. I mean, whenever you want to use it, you want to use it. Whenever you don’t want to use it, you don’t want to use it. It’s our land. It’s our right.

Rick: What would you say to an Arab that says, “This is on the other side of the line defining the West Bank and it’s Palestinian territory and you don’t belong here” — what…what would you say to them?
Woman in café: I don’t know. My history goes back not to the…to the line, whatever the line is, my history goes back thousands of years and in my history this is part of Israel.

Kamal: Why should I leave my country? I was born and raised here. My grandfather, his grandfather, his great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, and we still here. We didn’t leave.

Second man on balcony: We do need to find a way to fix everything. But I don’t know, I don’t know how easy it’s going to be. And if it’s going to be possible now.

Kamal: You know that daily there are settlements [they] are building, there is, the wall is being built, and the Palestinians don’t do anything about it. We don’t fight it; we don’t do anything against it. We just want to show the world that we are a people that want peace. We want to show them we, we’re accepting this now because we want to show you this is not who we are. We are people who want to achieve something.

Rick: My hunch is they’ve learned that there [is] only one future and that is to respect Israel and not be violent.
Woman in café: I don’t know if they’ve learned.
Rick: Maybe I’m naïve.
Man in café: You know I think they’ve learned —
Woman in café: I’m not convinced yet.
Rick: That’s my hope. That’s my hope.
Woman in café: I think we’re all hopeful. I don’t think we’ve seen it yet.

Kamal: Those settlements are making these, this, this idea of us building the states on that land impossible. If you want peace, if you want a two-state solution, help us achieving that, you know. The settlements for sure they don’t help.

Rick: I know this is the big million-dollar question, but do you think the future, the best future is a two-state solution or a one-state solution?
Man in café: You answer.
Woman in café: I don’t know! I’m not in politics; I’m a computer programmer.

Husam: I’m hoping and that’s part of the things I’m involved in, to create, plant seeds, hopefully maybe 10 years, 15 years from now people will realize the importance of living together and having one pluralistic democratic state.

First man on balcony: You can’t do one country to Israeli and to Palestine. ’Cause it’s not going to work, it’s not going to work.
Second man on balcony: It’s not going to work. It’s going to make only war.
First man on balcony: Yes.

Being here, I can see the appeal of these neighborhoods — especially for young families. But, I’ve learned that these Israeli enclaves embitter the Palestinians as much as violent resistance embitters Israelis. And many fear that the more the West Bank is fragmented by Israeli settlements, the more elusive a mutually agreeable solution to this region’s troubles will become.

The Palestinian perspective of the situation is illustrated by maps like this, showing how their land-holdings are shrinking, since the creation of Israel in 1948, with each passing decade.

And there’s the wall — begun in 2003 by Israel to defend its border with the West Bank. Israelis say this is a security fence, built after losing a thousand of its citizens to suicide bombers in the previous decade. And they claim it’s been effective — noting that since its construction, there’s been almost no terrorism.

Palestinians counter by saying that the wall was built with the pretense of security. They say it’s actually a land grab, designed to hobble a Palestinian state. The fence, or wall — which is over 300 miles long — generally runs well within Palestinian territory. And it’s nearly twice as long as the border it claims to defend — redrawn in order to secure settlements, aquifers, good farm land, and holy places within the West Bank for Israel.

While it’s landscaped, and can look attractive from the Israeli side, the wall is unfinished and feels demoralizing from the Palestinian side.

This struggle has been difficult — with killings and tragedy on both sides. While one man’s terrorist may be another man’s freedom fighter, the fact is, in recent decades, both sides have suffered terribly — Israeli Jews have been killed by Palestinians and Palestinians have been killed by Israelis.

I can certainly understand Israel’s need for security. But walls are designed to keep people apart…and to me, that’s part of the problem. I felt that young generations on both sides want to connect…but with this barrier — which many call the “separation wall”…people connecting to find common ground is not an option.