Monday, March 13, 2006

an exception, because

This blog is for my own, original writing, but I decided to make an exception and publish an article that has one measly quotation of mine. An A.P. Associated Press reporter was here last week with a photographer and not only interviewed me, I did my old "Press Relations" volunteer job and took them around Shiloh.

Here's the article:

Jewish Settlers Despair Before Election

By JOSEF FEDERMAN, Associated Press Writer
31 minutes ago

SHILO, West Bank - Jewish settlers are looking to
Israel's March 28 election with growing despair. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the front-runner, says he wants to give up large areas of the
West Bank and uproot most settlements there, and the settlers do not have the political clout to stop him.
Still disheartened after last year's Gaza pullout, settlers are torn over what to do. Opinions run from collecting compensation and leaving willingly to negotiating with the government or even resisting with force.
Giving up more land is "surrendering to terror" and will bring Hamas militants, who won Jan. 25 legislative elections, "to our doorsteps," said Bentzi Lieberman, head of the settlers' council.
"We will do everything we can to stop it," he added.
The 250,000 Israelis living in 120 West Bank settlements make up only 3.5 percent of Israel's population but for years wielded disproportionate political influence, bolstered by powerful allies in parliament.
That began to change last summer, when Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon their longtime patron, withdrew from the
Gaza Strip and part of the West Bank, uprooting 25 settlements.
Many settlers acknowledge that public opinion has shifted.
"We understand that what we think should be the Israeli dream is no longer shared by the entire society," said another settler leader, Shaul Goldstein.
Sharon said separating the settlers from Palestinians would improve security and help ensure Israel's future as a democracy with a Jewish majority. It was the first time Israel removed settlements built on land captured in the 1967 Mideast War and claimed by the Palestinians for their state.
Settlers said they were mistreated at the time, and a new government report backs the claim. The state comptroller said poor planning and handling of the evacuees caused unnecessary suffering, leaving thousands of settlers in temporary quarters months after the pullout.
Olmert, who has been running the Israeli government since Sharon's massive stroke Jan. 4, appears even more willing to take on the settlers. Last month, Israeli troops demolished nine homes in the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona, in what became the most violent clash ever between settlers and the security forces.
The incident has shaken the settlers.
"They're trying to demonize us. They're trying to demoralize us," said Batya Medad, a New York native who settled in Shilo nearly 25 years ago.
Nestled on a wind-swept ridge in the northern West Bank, the community of 250 families is a strong candidate for removal under Olmert's plan.
Polls predict Olmert's Kadima Party will win about 38 seats in the 120-seat parliament, putting it in a strong position to lead a coalition with moderate parties.
The settlers are in "deep, deep trouble," said Reuven Hazan, a political scientist at Hebrew University. "Their future is to make a very big decision whether to fight or pack up nicely."
Goldstein said the settlers will not go against public opinion if Olmert wins a clear mandate. If Olmert goes forward with his plan, settlers will try to rally public opposition but also work with the government.
"They will try to fight, scream and shout, and then negotiate," he said.
Olmert scored a public relations coup recently when Yoel Bin-Nun, an influential settler rabbi, announced his support for Kadima. Bin-Nun said he appreciated Olmert's offer to consult with settlers as he determines the border.
"If we say all or nothing, we could end up with nothing," Bin-Nun said.
However, Bin-Nun said he believes he is in the minority among settlers. He said many people have told his friends and students they are upset with him, though he has not been directly confronted.
Avshalom Vilan, a lawmaker from the dovish Yahad Party, has launched a program promising a home in Israel to anyone living in a settlement outside Israel's West Bank separation barrier. Under Olmert's plan, the barrier is to be the basis of the final border.
Vilan said his group, One House, has been contacted by about 1,000 people since it began work last year. He estimates that half of the roughly 80,000 people living beyond the barrier would move out willfully.
"They know they don't have any future," he said.
The other half, however, are likely to resist in one way or another, he said. Most resistance likely would be passive, as was the case in Gaza.
But given the religious significance of the land, violence is a possibility.
"If Olmert decides to uproot the settlements, that is a violent act," said Yair Shalev, a real-estate developer in Shilo. "If Olmert is going to be violent, some people are not going to be the battered wife. They might fight back."
During the Gaza withdrawal, and more recently in Hebron and Amona in the West Bank, small numbers of protesters threw skin-burning chemicals, eggs, bricks and other debris at security forces.
Government inquiries have noted in the past that militants among the settlers have acted with impunity, both against the Palestinians and against Israeli security forces.
Beyond the violence, Israeli critics of the settlers have long complained that the settlers have led the nation astray for decades and antagonized the international community. Israeli governments have invested billions of dollars in settlement construction, including generous subsidies for settlers.
The settlers still believe they are the vanguard of Zionism. They have transformed barren West Bank hilltops into bustling communities, fulfilling what they believed was God's command to settle the biblical Land of Israel.
Shilo resident David Rubin, a U.S.-born Orthodox Jew who survived a roadside shooting that wounded his 3-year-old son, said the attack only steeled his resolve to remain.
"Olmert is going against his heritage and right to be here," he said. "Hopefully the rest of the country will wake up in time."

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