Skip to comments.The Jewish Settlers Who Would Stay in West Bank Under Palestinian Rule
Posted on 02/11/2014 5:43:45 AM PST by SJackson
Handful Embrace Living as Minority After 2-State Deal
Eliaz Cohen is a second-generation Jewish settler in the occupied West Bank and thats where hes determined to remain.
Sitting in his kitchen in Kfar Etzion, between Jerusalem and Hebron, the yarmulke-wearing settler says that he wants to see a two-state solution and to see his home become part of the Palestinian state, with him in it.
The idea that some settlers could stay put after a peace deal in which territorial compromise would leave some Israeli Jewish settlers within the boundaries of a new Palestinian state has riled the Israeli government since late January, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested it. In fact, Netanyahus government coalition was at one point on the verge of collapsing over anger stemming from this controversy.
Naftali Bennett, leader of the pro-settler Jewish Home party, which is part of the coalition, accused Netanyahu of moral confusion and cited murders of Jews at the hands of Palestinians to explain the problem with the prime ministers suggestion that some settlers could live under Palestinian rule.
Arguments like Bennetts make the conversation in Cohens kitchen all the more surprising. His settlement, Kfar Etzion, fell under Arab rule once before and all but four residents were murdered when it did. That 1948 massacre is famous, and for most of the settlement movement, the message of Kfar Etzions re-establishment after the Six Day War is that it must always remain Israeli.
But Cohen said that even if Jerusalem and Ramallah were to reach a peace deal that annexed Kfar Etzion to Israel, he would wish they hadnt. I even prefer, to be honest, if we give [the Palestinians] a fair geopolitical space for their newly independent state and not cut in the middle, he told the Forward.
Embracing a perennial Palestinian demand one that riles Israel he said, The basis of 1967 lines could be the official borders of two states.
Cohen believes that as soon as Jews in the West Bank cease to be viewed as occupiers imposing their rule and become instead a minority needing protection, they will be safe. After reciting a blessing on a cup of coffee and taking a sip, he said: Many friends tell me that Im naive and Ill find myself hanged or slaughtered, and I ask them when their last time visiting a Palestinian was. I do it all the time, and when you are visiting an Arab person with his invitation, you can be sure of your life and safety 100%.
Settlers like Cohen are few and far between, perhaps only a few hundred, but they have an ear in both Jerusalem and Ramallah. The main proponent of the idea was the late Menachem Froman, a co-founder of the Gush Emunim West Bank settlers movement and the maverick chief rabbi of the Tekoa settlement. He spoke to Netanyahu on the subject two years ago, and is believed to have caused him to entertain the idea.
But critics point out that getting the Palestinian Authority to allow settlers to remain in the West Bank if and when a Palestinian state is established is only part of the problem. The other part would be getting the P.A. to accept the land expropriations Israel implemented that often took land out of the possession of Palestinian towns or private owners to provide the settlers with their current homes.
P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas said last year that in a peace deal he would not see the presence of a single Israeli, civilian or soldier, on our lands a pointed reference to his perspective that the West Bank, as a whole, should belong to the Palestinian nation and an apparent rejection of those expropriations.
But Nachum Pechenik, a Froman follower who went with the rabbi to meet Abbas, said the president stated that he was open to some settlers staying. There seems to be a shift toward this position on the Palestinian negotiating team. An aide to the team, Ashraf Khatib, told the Forward that while it rejects the idea of settlers staying en masse, anyone who is interested in being a Palestinian citizen, she or he is welcome to apply for Palestinian citizenship in accordance to the Palestinian law.
Cohens vision stops short of Khatibs suggestion; it doesnt involve him taking Palestinian citizenship. I could remain an Israeli citizen and live in Palestine, he said confidently, elaborating that he would pay taxes to Palestine and observe Palestinian law but vote for Israels parliament, not Palestines.
He wants a similar situation on the other side of the Green Line, where Palestinians could live, even refugees, observing Israeli law but voting in Palestine. In one fell swoop the two sides will have solved the refugee question and dismantled the demographic bomb that is said to be facing Israel as a Jewish state.
Is his idea a pipedream? He says not, citing two reasons. First, similar citizenship arrangements are already in place in the European Union, where people live where they want but vote in their country. And second, he believes that the idea of moving up to 300,000 settlers is unrealistic. Israelis and Palestinians are just so mixed, even after Oslo, which tried to separate us, he argued.
Cohen, a 42-year-old social worker and poet, is settler aristocracy. He grew up in Elkana, which his father established with other activists in 1977, and followed the classic settler-activist path, protesting the withdrawal from Sinai as a child, and getting arrested when trying to derail the Oslo peace process of the 1990s as part of a gentle but underground group.
While heartbreak at seeing homes destroyed pulls him in one direction, memories of his early childhood pull him in another. In Elkanas early years, before the first intifada, the settlement had no fence, relations with Arab neighbors were good and he studied Arabic at school. All this changed the moment a hand grenade was thrown into the settlement in 1981, but he believes that the friendship can be revived. If they hadnt stopped the Arabic lessons and if they hadnt built the fences, we could have allowed ourselves to recognize and fight the fears and not let the fear manage us, Cohen said. He hopes that upon the signing of a peace deal, settlers would be allowed to stay in their homes, and those who live on privately owned Palestinian land would compensate the owners fairly.
Pechenik wants to become something of a Palestinian chalutz, or pioneer. Unlike Cohen, he doesnt want an E.U.-style citizenship arrangement, but actually thinks that settlers who want to stay could become Palestinian citizens. Maybe he could become a Member of Parliament, he added, half-jokingly.
I know that we are a small minority [of settlers] who would want to stay under a two-state solution, but if more people say they will, Palestinians will understand and accept us, commented the 40-year-old teacher and head of the settler pro-peace group Land of Peace. I dont say, I want to stay because I want to assert my ownership. I will hope to stay and build a sustainable peace.
He thinks that Jews could help to develop a fledgling Palestinian states economy, culture and democracy. Its not that Palestinians will do us a favor by accepting Jewish people; its also for them, he said, going on to discuss the need to develop the Palestinian economy. If tomorrow we press a button and all the Israelis disappear, the Palestinian economy will go down and down.
Like Cohen, he insists that Israeli-Palestinian separation is unattainable: The left is talking about the ideal of [the nongovernmental organization] Peace Now, and the right is talking about the ideal of the whole Land of Israel. Im trying to be practical.
Practical, maybe. Outside his comfort zone, definitely. Pechenik grew up in the hard-line settlements of Hebron and Beit El and was, by his own admission, extreme. Then, in 1996, terrorists killed two of his friends in Beit El. He said his natural response was revenge, but then I started thinking and asking why, and decided that its not a problem of there being enough space.
Not only did the huge change in his political orientation lead him to his current opinions, it also presented him with a cultural challenge.
Neve Daniel, where he now lives, is a small village of about 2,000 people, almost all of them Orthodox Jews like him. Most, he concedes, would leave if it became part of a Palestinian state. He foresees the remaining Jews clustering into a neighborhood, with Palestinians inhabiting the rest of the homes. It wouldnt be easy for me, he said. All my life I have lived in a closed Jewish community.
He thinks that cultural rights, like security, can be guaranteed, and he looks forward to a day when the Palestinian Ministry of Religion will assign a budget to maintain the eruv a religious boundary that allows Orthodox Jews to push strollers on the Sabbath in Neve Daniel.
Pechenik estimates that if Israel does pull out of the West Bank and gives settlers the option to stay, not more than 10,000 settlers will choose to do so. The currently-fringe nature of his idea has led some friends to shun him. A few of them have stopped talking to me; a few understand me and think it is good, he reported. His nine siblings, six of them settlers, vary in their opinions and a brother and sister-in-law who were evacuated from Gaza in 2005 are among the most understanding. They said that after their experience, they learned what it is to be refugees and now have more understanding of the other side, Pechenik said.
In Ofra, northeast of Ramallah, a father of the settlement movement said that hell stay if he finds himself in Palestine but took a far more combative attitude on the matter than Cohen and Pechenik.
Yehuda Etzion, a founder of the Gush Emunim settlement movement, thinks that a decision by Israel to withdraw from the West Bank would be a sin, prohibited according to the Torah and all we have learned from our ancestors. This land, after all, is the the heart of Israel, he asserts.
But he would be prepared to remain in his home, and he estimates that one in five Ofra residents would follow his lead. We want to stay in the Land of Israel even if it is in the hands of our enemies, he said, adding that the matter of which citizenship they would hold is an open question.
Etzion, a 62-year-old whose main pursuit is lobbying for more Jewish visiting rights on the Temple Mount, considered Froman naive, and told the Forward, when discussing the possibility of life under Palestinian rule, I dont think there will be harmony, and I dont think it will be the Garden of Eden. Furthermore, he has no doubt at all that there would be violence against West Bank Jews but nevertheless he would not expect Israel to retain a security presence to protect them.
Etzion, who was in the Jewish underground that planned to blow up the Dome of the Rock in the 1980s, declined to discuss whether he foresaw Jews who fall within Palestinian borders having their own militias.
Questioned further about security, he had no clear answers, and said dryly of Palestinians, If they come and kill us on the first night, weve solved the problem because were not alive.
While Cohen and Pecheniks preparedness to live under Palestinian rule stems from hope, Etzions stems from despondency. He started to become disillusioned with the Israeli government when it withdrew from Sinai, and he thinks that a two-state solution would cement what he would consider the governments ideological bankruptcy. I think that the State of Israel, the minute it leaves Judea and Samaria, has killed Zionism itself, Etzion said.
Zionism would be more or less over, Etzion explained, adding that in a post-Zionist era it wouldnt be ideologically preferable for him to live in Israel rather than in Palestine. And if this time comes, and a Palestinian flag flies over Ofra, Im prepared to do all that is necessary to be able to stay here.
Read more: http://forward.com/articles/192272/the-jewish-settlers-who-would-stay-in-west-bank-un/?p=all#ixzz2t1M990SA
They will be killed before the ink on the “peace” agreement is dry.
If youd like to be on or off, please FR mail me.
There were some who wished to stay in Gaza as well. Unless they're allowed to stay, a non starter, the US and EU should be ashamed of their role in creating, financing and perhaps defending a true apartheid state. President Obamas recent speech about our commitment to religious freedom worldwide was clearly a lie, as would be any similar pronouncements by SOS Kerry.
Bibi’s ministers foolishly brought up this possiblity weeks ago, and now it is the talk of the media. “Palestinian rule”. What a disgrace and an insult to the Jews who withstood thousands of years in exile and millions slaughtered to re-create the Jewish state.
Hmm... interesting... the truth be told... same thing is happening to whites in South Africa and Zimbabwe.. with a modicum of temporary tolerance while the so called “black” leaders do the bidding of Sino Soviet white liberal media colonization.
It was said by Confucius, that “When embarking on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”
An axiom of this should be, “Those who volunteer for martyrdom should dig their own graves as a convenience for their murderers.”
cohen is brain dead. He’ll be one of the first to be killed by his palestinian “friends”.
Why? Because he’s Israeli and they are COMMANDED by their scriptures to kill the Jews.
He is a perfect example of the mindless leftist. Thinking the world is all sunshine and skittles and refusing to recognize the fact that some people, and some belief systems, are truly evil.
“Cohen believes that as soon as Jews in the West Bank cease to be viewed as occupiers imposing their rule and become instead a minority needing protection, they will be safe.”
Uh.yeah, sure you will.
The PA is, however, an Apartied State that demands that it be Judenfrei.
“Eliaz Cohen is a second-generation Jewish settler in the occupied West Bank”
(Sigh)It’s not the “occupied West Bank”; geographically it’s Judea and Samaria—where both Jews and Arabs have the right (under the British and later the UN mandate) to settle, until final borders are drawn.
Jordan was the only power which illegally “occupied” the area by conquest—and was driven out by the lawful inhabitants (Israelis).
“Cohen believes that as soon as Jews in the West Bank cease to be viewed as occupiers imposing their rule and become instead a minority needing protection, they will be safe. After reciting a blessing on a cup of coffee and taking a sip, he said: Many friends tell me that Im naive and Ill find myself hanged or slaughtered, and I ask them when their last time visiting a Palestinian was. I do it all the time, and when you are visiting an Arab person with his invitation, you can be sure of your life and safety 100%.’
OK. They didn’t slit your throat during a visit for coffee, so therefore you’re perfectly safe under Pali rule. Of course. That makes perfect sense./sarc