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Posted at 9:50 AM ET, 02/21/2011

Traveling in the West Bank (Part 2)

By Jennifer Rubin

As I related on Sunday, my recent trip to Israel, and specifically to the West Bank, provided a vivid contrast to the international diplomatic frenzy over an area that few Americans ever see for themselves.

Late in the afternoon on my day on the West Bank, my guide, Naftali Bennett, and I continued on to Ariel. This is literally the center of Israel, the point midway on both the north-south axis and the east-west axis. The town is home to a university and 20,000 other residents, including a group of those uprooted from Gaza when Israel withdrew. They live there in makeshift trailers, but, with the settlement freeze lifted, work can continue on their homes. However, the trailer encampment has been a political eyesore -- a reminder that promises of "relocating" settlers are less than meets the eye. The university has approximately 9,000 undergraduate students; it also has 1,000 candidates for master of science degrees, and about 100 are pursuing PhDs. The head of the university, like many faculty members, is a Russian émigré. He arrived in 1992 when there were 200 students. We stood on the balcony overlooking another Biblical scene. Between the Mount Bra'cha (blessing) and the Mount of Grizzim (curse) is the city of Nabulus, where Joshua gathered the Israelites and told them they had a choice: between the curse and the blessing. Modern and Biblical Israel are never entirely separate.

The university houses a free electron laser that generates energy waves between the frequency of radio and optical waves. The waves generated can penetrate solid objects and also create an image. For homeland security it holds the promise of weapons detection and surveillance without intrusive security searches. Lacking the harmful effects of radiation it may also have medical applications. Students huddled over computers worked to sharpen the images' resolution. Despite the worldwide political antipathy to the West Bank, this university is part of the worldwide scientific community and will hold a symposium with scientists from Russia and the University of California at Berkeley.

As we continued on the trip, we passed Joseph's tomb, which, under the Oslo accords, was assigned to the Israelis. In the First Intifada it was overrun by Palestinians. A Christian Druze soldier, also named Joseph (Yosef) was killed defending it and is now a celebrated figure. Once again past and present merge.

We traveled on to Barkan, an industrial center. Within a large, gated facility there are manufacturing plants for everything from bagels to plastic. The owner of the plastics factory took us around an airy factory. He employs 80 people, half Jews and half Palestinians, and produces plastic items for the Israel and foreign markets. Once the PA boycott hit, he lost the Palestinian market. One of his customers who continued to purchase from him was jailed and the items burned. The PA's aim, Bennett said, is to halt the co-existence that is being fostered on the West Bank.

But the factory owner is in this for more that the money. He told me, "This is a real bridge," pointing to two workers, one Palestinian and one Israeli, squatting next to a large machine in rapt conversation. He showed me a new mold for making toilet seats and exclaimed with a smile, "THIS is peace. Toilet seats are peace."

On an economic level the factory is a success. Palestinian workers with the benefit of Israeli labor laws make 5000-6000 sheckles a month; the average Palestinian wage is 1300-1500. Outside we talked to two Palestinian brothers. They said they have the nicest homes in their neighborhoods and are sending their children to college. But what do they want to do about the political conflict? The owner translated: "Have elections just like in Gaza. Gaza and here are the same." But what if Hamas wins just like there? One brother sniffed, waved his hand and said, "Won't happen here." (Condi Rice got spun on that very point in the 2006 election.) I pressed on. What if the PA wins but Hamas moves in, just like Gaza, shoots the PA officials in the knee caps and drops them off buildings? He retreated to the Palestinian line. "How do you know such things?" he asked. I told him, "I saw it on TV." He replied, "I see this on TV but I don't believe my eyes. I don't know what happened." There was a moment of awkward silence as I exchanged a look of incredulity with my hosts. At least for now, economic cooperation has not inspired political realism.

Our final stop was a small religious community overlooking Tel Aviv. Orthodox girls in ankle length dresses walk around a neighborhood that would otherwise fit seamlessly into a Sun Belt housing development in the U.S. We stood on the steps of a small Yeshiva with a clear view of Tel Aviv (nine miles away) and Ben Gurion airport (only three miles away). Even the most aggressive proponents of peace deal image that this community would not be ceded to the Palestinians.

There have been multiple schemes to divide up the West Bank (the most recent suggestion by David Makovsky of the Washington Institute) that would retain predominantly Jewish areas, but none has managed to lure the Palestinians to make peace.

Many Israelis have no patience for the settlers. A high-tech magnate attending the Herzliya conference was candid about his negative views of the religious settlers (not unlike a Manhattanite might scornfully refer to "Bible Belters") and told me, "Just because something is mine, doesn't mean I have to exercise that right." For him, Palestinians and the land they occupy must be separated from Israel so that Palestinians are not "ruled" by Israel. He insisted no autonomy arrangement would suffice and that if Israel gives them the West Bank the world will leave Israel alone, even though not all of the West Bank will go back. But would the "international community" really relent?

And I wonder if Israel have the will to forcibly evict tens of thousands of settlers, maybe more, in order to comply with a "peace" agreement. Well, a properly drawn map should keep the number of displaced Jewish settlers down, argue the settlers' antagonists. They imagine that financial incentives would be sufficient to induce the settlers to leave or, perhaps, they'll be forced to flee when a pull out date is announced. After what I've seen I'm doubtful bribery will work.

For Bennett, plans to sever the West Bank are unrealistic and ignore the shifting demographics. Four years ago, Arabs in the West Bank were having 8 children per couple, the Jews only 2.5. Now the gap has narrowed: 3.5 vs. 2.9. . Bennett anticipates that should Israel pull out, Palestinians who live, but are not considered residents in Arab countries, will immigrate to the West Bank, terror will increase and Israel will need to reoccupy the land for its defense.

Even the Obama administration now recognizes an extended military presence in the West Bank by Israel would be needed in the event a peace deal could ever be negotiated. Settlement critics like the Herzilya magnate insist the Israel military can simply go back into the West Bank whenever needed to "clean out" the terrorists. However, the Gaza operation hardly gives one confidence that Israel will be able to endure the international alarm raised whenever Israel acts in its own defense. How many attacks on neighborhoods in Tel Aviv would be sufficient, in the eyes of the world, for Israel to take action?

Demography, geography, faith and security interlock on the West Bank, reinforcing each side's perspective. The same set of facts compels the settlers to demand retention of the West Bank and the anti-settlement Israelis (not to mention the U.S. and European governments) to demand it be excised from Israel. But even a short time on the West Bank leaves one suspecting that for all the talk that the present situation is "unsustainable," the alternatives are as well.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 21, 2011; 9:50 AM ET
Categories:  Israel  | Tags:  Jennifer Rubin  
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Does no one at the Washington Post care that Rubin did NOT condescend to quote even one Palestinian?

Perhaps it was too much of an inconvenience for her to bother to speak with any as her purpose seems rather obvious: White wash Israel's Occupation with a rosy-colored story about the wonderful settlers and their idealized life. She omits the terror and chaos they create for the Palestinians: segregated roads that only settlers may use, harassing and maiming school children to such an extent that the Israel Supreme Court had to ORDER the IOF to protect them. uprooting and burning olive groves, poisoning water cisterns, polluting the environment as their waste flows freely out of the colonies onto Palestinian farm land, stealing more and more land.

Rubin must be blind!! Nothing about the terrorist colonizers of Hebron who throw garbage out their windows and spit in the face of women who dare to try to leave their homes.

And to top it off, she stops short of the inevitable conclusion of her rose-colored 'visit' to the West Bank. Apparently, she can't bring herself to state the obvious: the only solution is ONE STATE FOR BOTH Palestinians and Israelis. A REAL democracy where one person equals one vote and citizenship rights are NOT tied to religion.

Posted by: paabrhm | February 21, 2011 10:44 AM | Report abuse

A Christian Druze soldier?

Posted by: hagioren | February 21, 2011 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Ultimately the dream of an Arab state and a Jewish state living side-by-side in peace may be achieved. First the Palestinians would have to abandon their death cult and revanchist fantasies, and that won't happen anytime soon. In the meanwhile, Israel has a choice of two very different models for managing this intractable situation -- Gaza and the West Bank. Not a difficult choice.

Posted by: eoniii | February 21, 2011 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Jennifer sez: "What if the PA wins but Hamas moves in, just like Gaza, shoots the PA officials in the knee caps and drops them off buildings?"

Another example of the psychotic delusion that Zionists live under and an example of historical Zionist revisionism. As she knows, Hamas won the parlimentary elections in Palestine, not the Palestinian Authority. Then the U.S. and Israel arranged a coup to keep the PA in power. The coup succeeded in the West Bank but not in Gaza, yet Jennifer reverses history and asks, "What if the PA wins but Hamas moves in, just like Gaza..." as if that is actually what happened.

The rest of her blog is pure propaganda. As pointed out she omits the slaughter of Palestinians by Israel over the years, Israel's ethnic cleansing, the fact that the Muslims in Palestine are descendants of the people of ancient Israel and the European interlopers are not, and she gives us mumbo jumbo from Jewish biblical writings about events that never occurred and people who probably never lived. Her writings are like that of a thief who steals trying to assuage her conscience because the "gold really belonged to me."

The pathetic thing is that such Zionist historical revisionism and outright lies have been accepted by many as historical facts, e.g., Israel was attacked by Egypt in 1967, so the attitude is that Zionists have rewritten history in the past so they can do it again.

Posted by: Lazarus40 | February 21, 2011 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Many years ago I was watching the news and a segment about Israel came on. There was footage of a young boy throwing a rock at a passing car. The kid couldn't have been much older than about ten. The car instantly pulled over and a guy jumped out with a UZI and sprayed fully automatic machine gun fire at the fleeing boy.
Everything I read about Israel today just calls that image to mind.

Posted by: yetanotherpassword | February 21, 2011 11:46 AM | Report abuse

let's see what happens when PA PM Fayyad runs on his proposed (today) Unity ticket with Hamas...

the world will breathe a sigh of relief watching Israeli Jews, and Israeli Christians under assault. The Israeli Circassian Muslims will NOT be televised because no one will understand why they are fighting Hamas to the death.

The false palestinian narrative is so deeply entrenched that even the televised murder of Israelis will not change opinions of those who only see the "colonial oppressor" view.

Posted by: K2K2 | February 21, 2011 1:25 PM | Report abuse

The article is written in a typical European style: a journalist "making her point" for the settlements to stay in Israel. For example, A "magnate" view is dismissed, and his name is hidden. This is not kosher, Rubin. It is a polemics, not a reporting.

But in all fairness, pro-Israel propaganda like this can be found only on very few pages of the American newspapers. And it is really "pro" propaganda, not its racist "anti" opposite. She says, Israel is good, she does not say, Arabs or British are bad. She does not say, they should be killed. And that what Arabs and British frequently say about the Jewish Israelis. Rubin says, Arabs have their rights, and the Israelis have their rights. That's all. In her view, Israelis are entitled to more rights regarding the lands taken (grabbed or liberated) in 1967. Alas, she did not dare to say this directly. And that is not good, of course.

But nauseating anti Jewish hate-mongering is ubiquitous on the most of other pages. All we read is that Jews have no rights, they must tolerate Arab aggression, and get obediently killed by the bombers, rockets, or murderous propaganda to satisfy the sense of fairness of the progressive part of the Western population.

It is mandatory for the Washington Post to avoid all kinds of propaganda, especially, its racist Nazi variety. Stop anti-Israel propaganda. Stop calling for the Jews to be expelled or get killed (in a polite, politically correct progressive wrapping, of course). This will cause death to this paper before all the Jews are killed.

Until that happens, even clumsy attempts to defend Jewish Israelis against Neo-Nazi Lobby are mostly welcome!

Posted by: boroda | February 21, 2011 4:32 PM | Report abuse

This article definitely takes the Israeli side and perspective but attacking it as “one sided” is seriously hypocritical when considering that the majority of the articles are shamelessly pro-Palestinian.
Some of the facts that anti-Israeli commentators presented here need serious corrections:
1.There is are no serious historians that will claim the today “Palestinians” are more related to the “Canaanites natives” or to the Philistines -for whom that region was miss-named after (Palestina – The Land of the Philistines), than to Arab invaders and settlers. Even if there are genetically similarities between Jews (including those “European foreigners”) and the Arab Palestinians that doesn’t make the Arabs the “true descendants” of the Judeans (Judea the only native “Palestinian” country whose nation still survived – the Jews). Most of the Israeli Jews still practice the same religion speak the same language and have the same culture as the Judeans, while most of the Arab Palestinians are part of the Arab/Muslim world in every aspect.
2. The strong relation between the Jews (half of them are native to the Middle East as much as the Arabs,or even preceded them) and the miss-named region called Palestine (Judea), was confirmed by the “International Law” : The League of Nations and the UN long time ago, but was ignored by the Muslim/Arab side which should be held responsible for all the consequences:wars, death(Arab and Jewish), refugees(Arab and Jewish), occupation (of disputed territories in which Jews own land).
3. The “occupied territories” were taken from Syria, Jordan and Egypt (fully returned and included a Jewish “Ethnical Cleansing”) after wars started but guess which side? The 1967 “borders” are armistice lines – were never recognized borders, by the Arabs countries (or by anyone) and the UN resolution 242 does not require Israel to return to those “borders” and definitely not “unconditionally”. No Arab Palestinian country existed in those territories which makes them disputed territories not “occupied” and in the mean time, until a peace agreement is reached – Israel has the right/obligation to implement any reasonable security measure, including check-points (justified by the many terrorist attempts to cross over) .
...and yes "a Christian Druze" seems wrong unless he is a convert.

Posted by: karlr | February 23, 2011 7:37 PM | Report abuse

Rubin attempts to put a nice, shiny gloss on an evolving situation that has been described as "apartheid" by such Israeli leaders as Olmert and Barak. She goes on a tour, led by a radical, Jewish supremacist settlement leader, and we are supposed to believe that she is telling us reality? Her weird column is indeed racist tinged. The "real' people are the Jewish settlers, whose rights and needs are paramount. The Palestinians are faceless people who can have a good life only if they are docile and accept the reality that they should not have human or legal rights. They must learn to live under the rule of military occupation and accept that because they are not Jewish settlers, they essentially are disenfranchised and without rights before the rule of the military occupation. Good luck, Rubin and Israel on selling that to the world. Israel is facing increasing isolation and condemnation, much as South Africa did before the collapse of apartheid.

Posted by: donkris | February 27, 2011 7:25 PM | Report abuse

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