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Ma'ariv: "Deadly Folly" by Peace Now's Yariv Oppenheimer

Op-ed by the secretary general of Peace Now on the tragic circumstances for residents of Northern West Bank Settlements NOT slated for evacuation

See related News article from the Jerusalem Post HERE


The shocking murder of Hermesh resident Yevgeny Reider by a terrorist cell whose members ambushed his car at the roadside, puts on the agenda again the fate of the residents of the settlements Hermesh and Mevo Dotan. These are located in northern Samaria and are not slated for evacuation as part of the disengagement plan.

Unlike their neighbors from Homesh, Sa-Nur, Ganim and Kadim, which are designated for evacuation as part of the disengagement plan, the rest of the residents living in settlements in northern Samaria have not been given the opportunity to request compensation from the government, and are compelled to continue living in the heart of danger, deep within a crowded Palestinian area.

One of the settlements in northern Samaria that is not slated for evacuation is Hermesh, which was first established as a Nahal outpost and in 1984 was converted into a permanent civilian settlement. The purpose of establishing Hermesh, as well as the nearby Mevo Dotan, was to create a "settlement buffer" and prevent the creation of Palestinian territorial contiguity between Tulkarm and Nablus.

For this purpose, Hermesh was established in the heart of an isolated area, surrounded by Palestinian cities and villages, with the sole aim of sabotaging the future possibility of establishing a Palestinian state in the nearby areas. The state leaders of that time, in cooperation with the Samaria Regional Council and the Gush Emunim leaders, believed that in order to fulfill this political objective, a settlement should be established at a dangerous and impossible point, and residents from central Israel should be induced to come and live in the heart of the Palestinian population, 10 kilometers from the eastern side of the Green Line.

To this end, the state invested millions of shekels in building the settlement, setting up infrastructure, paving access roads and providing daily protection for the residents, a task that requires large security forces. Needless to say, an IDF escort is needed to enter or exit Hermesh, and the roads leading to it are continuously guarded by IDF troops.

Like the rest of the settlements in northern Samaria, the masses did not stream to Hermesh, and at its peak the settlement numbered only about 70 families. Today, after four of the local residents have been murdered, and most of the residents who were able to find alternative housing have left, only about 30 families are left in Hermesh. These families are forced to continue to pay the price of Israeli recklessness, and to live in severe distress and daily uncertainty.

It may be recalled that in December 2003 Sharon first outlined the idea of the disengagement plan, and explained that in any final status arrangement Israel would not be able to hold onto all the places where it is today, and "settlements that will be relocated are those that in any possible format of a future final status arrangement will not be included within the State of Israel's boundaries." In light of this, it is hard to understand why Sharon suffices with the evacuation of four settlements in northern Samaria (Homesh, Sa-Nur, Ganim and Kadim) and did not include the rest of the settlements in northern Samaria. Any reasonable person understands that there is no chance that in the future the northern Samaria settlements will be included in any arrangement, and yet the decision on their evacuation is still distant.

It is hard not to suspect that Sharon and the Israeli government have chosen to exclude Hermesh and Mevo Dotan from the disengagement plan solely out of cold political considerations, without any consideration for the fate of their residents. It is possible that only due to the desire to buy time and not be subjected to strong criticism from the Right, Sharon chose to use the northern Samaria settlers as political hostages, and wait with their evacuation until the continuation of the peace process.

In the time that passes until then, the settlers living in this dangerous area will continue to serve as bargaining chips versus the Palestinians, and the state will continue to endanger in vain the lives of hundreds of soldiers, who will continue to bodily protect the deadly and unnecessary march of folly in northern Samaria.