Early this week, the Washington Post ran a piece titled, “In the settlement of Kiryat Arba, the demand is to expand.” If you just read the title, you might think it was about the continuing growth of Israel’s settlements. If you only read the first few paragraphs, you might think that it was about the shocking murder of Hallel Ariel and the cynical use of her death to promote settlement growth.
But read to the end and you find that Kiryat Arba – one of the most iconic and radical of the ideological settlements, the settlement home to Baruch Goldstein (y”sh), who murdered Muslim worshipers at the Ibrahimi Mosque/Tomb of the Patriarchs in 1994 – is shrinking. Settlers there are given to lament that “political considerations and outside pressure means nothing changes.”
So it is no surprise that in the same article, when the Washington Post wanted to learn the facts about Israeli settlements from an authoritative source, they turned to Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran.
Acknowledged as the foremost expert on settlements, Hagit has helped build awareness of the threat that they pose to Israel’s viability as a secure, Jewish, democratic state. It is through her efforts, and those of others at Peace Now, that money for settlements and plans for their expansion – which Netanyahu and his government would like to keep under wraps – are revealed. It is through their efforts that documentation is produced allowing the U.S., the international community, and countless organizations around the world to fully understand, track, and condemn settlement expansion in the West Bank.
In fact, you might call Hagit “the Settlement Whisperer” – her expertise and unflagging determination has done more to expose and tame the settlements than otherwise would be the case.
Despite claims of population growth by the proponents of the “Greater Israel” project, and despite the Netanyahu government pouring money into shoring up and expanding settlements, an examination of the numbers actually proves that the Israeli settlement enterprise in the West Bank has failed. There are few Israelis willing to move outside of the Green Line these days, and despite all the governmental incentives and efforts over the last 49 years, only four perecnt of Israelis are settlers.
As it turns out, “outside pressure” and “political considerations” work.
And it’s not only the settlements themselves – pressuring businesses that are active in the West Bank has also worked. Despite government-provided incentives for companies to help entrench Israel’s hold on the West Bank, several high-profile companies have recently decamped back to within the Green Line. Not only that, but twenty to thirty percent of Israeli companies from a list of them compiled 20 years ago are no longer there.
The trend is clear: Israelis do not want an economy that is anchored in the occupation.
Even as we recognize the difficulty of the struggle for peace, we must not forget that we are having an effect on the ground. It’s because of the efforts of Peace Now and Americans for Peace Now – and because of your support – that we have slowed the tide, and through which we will eventually turn that tide.
APN and Peace Now will continue to be at the forefront of efforts to oppose the settlement enterprise that threatens Israel’s future. Help support Hagit Ofran and all of Peace Now’s efforts to make sure that Netanyahu’s policies are revealed and brought to a halt.
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