Wednesday, June 12, 2002

A good article by Ze'ev Schiff addresses what to do about a) the small Israeli settlements in remote parts of the West Bank and Gaza; and b) the "unauthorized" settlement outposts that ideologically-oriented folk periodically set up. These communities necessitate a significant army presence, and while some people (like the professorial Council for Peace and Security) want to dismantle them, the consensus among the IDF, analysts, and moderate Palestinians is that doing this in the current circumstances would be perceived by the Arabs as a major victory and encourage further violence.

Regarding the "unauthorized outposts" .... In spite of the international ruckus, government-sanctioned settlement activity at the moment is pretty much limited to expansion (or "natural growth" - I'm not qualified to judge) of the large communities near Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. As always, it must be pointed out that the Oslo framework specifically did not prohibit this. The "Mitchell Plan" provided for a settlement freeze following a ceasefire, but Arafat preferred to keep firing.

From time to time, a group of right-wingers who are opposed to the settlement freeze sets up a little village of mobile homes on a hill next to an established settlement. Sometimes the army shuts them down, but other times they don't bother. These settlers are fond of comparing themselves to the leftists who used to go to meet with the PLO when it was illegal to do so.

One time (before the "post-Oslo war") I went to visit someone at one of these caravan outposts. I rode the bus into Efrat, and then hitched a ride with someone who I thought would take me where I was going. The fellow who picked me up telephoned his teenaged daughter, who described where the place was ... "at the end, beside the Palestinians". The guy quite kindly drove me out of his way, and down a short dirt road, to my destination. The caravans had a private security guard rather than the IDF. There were no Palestinian villages nearby, but when my friend drove me home, we went via Bethlehem.

Update: The gov't is dismantling one of these caravan outposts in Maon (report).

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