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Are settlements in Israel major obstacle to peace?

world Updated: Dec 08, 2012 00:42 IST
Yashwant Raj

The aroma of Shabbat cooking filled the house. The cookies on the table looked a poor substitute. But nothing else was on offer. Just then the family dog came skidding in.

“Barb,” Bob Lang said, the tone just perfect, not too harsh, not too soft. Barbara, his wife, quickly let the dog out into the backyard.

Lang heads the religious council of Efrat, a Jewish settlement established in Israeli occupied territory of West Bank in 1983.

Efrat is a gated community of prosperous Jewish settlers -- Lang is a dairy farmer -- surrounded by hostile Palestinian neighbours kept away by armed guards.

Lang says Jewish settlers tried working with Palestinians but hadn’t had much success. “They are under threat of death if they cooperated with us.”

The situation is a little more complicated. These settlements are considered illegal internationally and would be part of Palestine in an eventual peace deal.

Israeli government announced 3,000 fresh settlements last week in retaliation to the Palestinian Authority winning UN recognition as a non-member state.

“The settlements are the worst thing we could have done,” said Alexander Yakobson of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Israel shut down 18 settlements in the Sinai peninsula in 1982 after an agreement with Egypt.

That wasn’t easy. The Gaza Strip settlers found support all over the country.

Lang was a part of those protests. And he conceded settlers never had much of a chance.

Even though, he said, the Gaza Strip settlements were shut down for the sake of peace, “we have found no peace”.

Gaza militants fired hundreds of rockets into Israel cities -- reaching close to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem -- over an eight-day conflict late November.