Palestinian vigilantes patrol villages amid fear of more arson attacks


Armed men stopping cars at checkpoints in the West Bank are usually Israeli security forces policing the territory, but in some areas they are Palestinian civilians patrolling their own villages.

Fears of attacks by far-right Jews have increased since a Palestinian man and his 18-month-old son were killed when their house in Duma village was set ablaze on July 31, giving the farmers-turned-volunteer watchmen a renewed sense of urgency.

“They used to break glass, damage houses, and torch the mosque and vehicles,” said Abed al-Atheim Adi, mayor of the village of Qusra where locals have been patrolling the streets at night since 2001.

“The youths in the village formed teams to defend the rights of their children and families and provide more protection at night,” said Adi.

Reuters accompanied a patrol in Qusra this week. Watchmen, some of whom were masked, carried cudgels and a pick-axe as weapons and used a flashlight to peer into the dark fields on the thorny plains near the city of Nablus.

They had no guns, perhaps fearing crackdowns by the Israeli army, which, under interim peace deals that set up the self-ruling Palestinian Authority (PA) in the 1990s, has overall responsibility for security in the area.

In a nearby village, Turmus Ayya, residents sometimes set up checkpoints on the access road at night, where they question motorists and search their vehicles.

“The number of the team members can be seven, 17 or 40, depending on who is free,” Adi said. “These teams don't get support or funding from anyone. The Palestinian Authority promised to provide support, but nothing has happened.”

ESCALATION

If an intruder is spotted, the watchmen phone the village imam, who summons reinforcements over the mosque loudspeakers.

Qusra was the scene of a run-in with a group of Jewish settlers in January 2014. Accusing the Israelis of throwing rocks at them, villagers detained and beat them before handing them over to the Israeli army. A representative of the neighboring Jewish settlement of Esh Kodesh disputed the Palestinians' account, saying the Israelis were set upon while on a hike in the area.

Among the settlers involved was Meir Ettinger, a far-right Jewish activist who, following the Duma arson, has been jailed without trial by Israeli authorities scrambling to stem what they fear is a surge in hate crimes.

An Israeli military spokesman had no immediate comment on the self-defense patrols. One Israeli army general, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, voiced cautious sympathy for the villagers but also concern about possible unanticipated flare-ups.

“Our special forces often carry out counter-terrorism operations in the area, sometimes in plainclothes disguises. What happens if these self-defense groups mistake them for vandals? It's a recipe for escalation,” the general said.

Adi voiced confidence in the restraint of the Qusra watchmen.

“In the last four years they haven’t experienced any mistakes, and the minute they see the (Israeli) army operating in the village the team members stay home,” he said.

The village vigilantes pose a dilemma for the Palestinian Authority, which coordinates West Bank security with Israel.

“These (self-defense) teams in the West Bank have so far received no support from the PA, but I hope that the PA will soon make a decision to support them,” Ghassan Daghlas, the authority official who monitors settlement activity in the Nablus area, told Reuters.

Right-wing settlement activist speaks up


The director and co-founder of the Israel Land Fund (ILF), a right-wing, Israel-based pro-settler group, told a small crowd of hawkish Israel supporters that “Arabs are eating the sovereignty of Israelis in our capital” during a local event on June 6.

Aryeh King appeared at Maison Marvin in Beverly Hills to discuss his organization’s efforts: Since its inception in 2007, the ILF has worked within the Israeli legal system to evict Arabs from their properties in East Jerusalem and other areas of Israel and encouraged Jews to purchase land in Israel. 

These are “land redemption efforts,” said King, who believes that because of Israel’s biblical ties to the land, all of Israel belongs to the Jews. Arabs living in Israel should immigrate to places such as South America and Canada, he said, when an audience member asked where the Arabs would go.

The event was organized by the Creative Zionist Coalition, a group whose stated purpose is to encourage individuals to make aliyah to Israel, combat anti-Semitism and create a coalition of Zionists to defend Israel and the Jewish people worldwide.

The 10 attendees at King’s approximately 60-minute lecture included Paul Schnee, president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and ZOA National Vice Chair Steve Goldberg.

King, 35, was born on Kibbutz Alumim, which is located in the northwestern Negev desert. He currently lives in a Jewish neighborhood on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem and says, according to the ILF Web site, that he is devoted to combating “extreme left-wing organizations pushing the post-Zionist agenda.” His local appearance was part of a tour in the United States and Canada, he said.

The nonprofit ILF employs five people — two Israelis, two Americans and one Australian. ILF’s co-founder’s name isn’t listed on the Web site. Rather it says, “Name withheld.”

According to a May article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the ILF was involved with a Supreme Court lawsuit involving the controversial eviction of a Palestinian family living in East Jerusalem neighborhood Sheikh Jarrah.

On June 6, King expressed frustration that Israelis are restricted from certain areas of Israel, calling this “anti-Semitism … with Jews against Jews.” 

He also criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that he believes Netanyahu has allowed too many concessions to Israel’s Arab population, such as building freezes in East Jerusalem and in settlements. 

“We are on our way to losing Jerusalem” he said. “If we lose Jerusalem, I think we will lose all of Eretz Yisrael.”

He said the media does not paint an accurate portrayal of what is happening in Israel and that the complicity of the Jewish Diaspora has led to the current situation in Israel.  

Jews in the Diaspora, King said, “need to wake up.”

State Dept., ADL slam attacks on Palestinians


The U.S. State Department and the Anti-Defamation League condemned a firebomb attack on Palestinians believed to have been carried out by settlers.

“We note that the Government of Israel has also condemned this heinous attack and pledged to bring the perpetrators to justice,” the State Department said in its statement Friday. “We look to Israeli law enforcement officials to do so expeditiously. We urge all parties to avoid any actions that could lead to an escalation of violence.”

Six Palestinians were injured when a taxi caught fire in a suspected firebombing near a West Bank Jewish settlement on Thursday.

Israeli police believe the fire was the result of a settler throwing a firebomb at the vehicle and said a second firebomb was located near the site of the attack, which took place near the Bat Ayin settlement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and senior security officials have condemned the attack and pledged to apprehend the perpetrators.

The ADL statement condemned the fire bomb attack as well as a mob assault on Palestinians in downtown western Jerusalem on Friday morning that left one seriously injured.

“If the attacks were carried out by Israeli Jewish youth, this violence cannot be seen as isolated incidents,” the ADL said in a statement. “Israeli leadership – political, religious, cultural – must come together to make clear that these manifestations of hate are unacceptable and will not be tolerated, and that country-wide social and educational initiatives must be considered.”

State terrorism report praises Israel, counts settler attacks as terror


The U.S. State Department’s annual report on terrorism said Hamas and Hezbollah continued to destabilize the Middle East, described Israel as a “resolute” partner in counterterrorism and listed as “terrorist incidents” extremist settler attacks on Palestinians.

“Both Hamas and Hezbollah continued to play destabilizing roles in the Middle East,” said the executive summary of the report for 2011, which was released on Tuesday.

Much of the summary, which highlights what the authors believe to be the report’s most salient points, was devoted to al-Qaida, and it led with the assassination last year by U.S. forces of the group’s founder, Osama bin Laden.

Turning to the Middle East, the summary said Hezbollah’s “robust relationships with the regimes in Iran and Syria, involvement in illicit financial activity, continued engagement in international attack planning, and acquisition of increasingly sophisticated missiles and rockets continued to threaten U.S. interests in the region.”

The report also stated: “Meanwhile, Hamas retained its grip on Gaza, where it continued to stockpile weapons that pose a serious threat to regional stability. Moreover, Hamas and other Gaza-based groups continue to smuggle weapons, material, and people through the Sinai, taking advantage of the vast and largely ungoverned territory.”

The country report on Israel was unusually robust in its praise, for the first time describing Israel as a “resolute counterterrorism partner,” and noting, for instance, Israel’s cooperation with the international community in tracking financing for terrorists.

The country report also unequivocally listed settler attacks on Palestinians as “terrorist incidents,” scrubbing distinctions in previous reports between “settler violence” and terrorism. It listed several arson attacks on mosques that are believed to have been made by settlers.

The report continued to again list Kahane Chai, an extremist settler group, as a designated terrorist group, as well as five Palestinian groups, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and two affiliates of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The report listed four state sponsors of terrorism: Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria.

“Iran was known to use the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and terrorist insurgent groups to implement its foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and support terrorist and militant groups,” it said.

It also noted that Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups continued to headquarter in Damascus, adding that Hamas left toward the end of 2011 because of the surging unrest in that country.

In listing American victims of terrorism last year, the report noted that one American was killed in Jerusalem on Sept. 23 and one was injured in Tel Aviv on Aug. 19.

Settlers ordered to leave Hebron house


Jewish settlers who moved into an Arab home near the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron have 24 hours to leave, the Israeli army said.

An eviction order issued Monday says the several dozen settlers, including families with young children, must leave by 3 p.m. Tuesday or they will be evacuated by the army. The settlers say they bought the house.

Last week’s middle-of-the-night takeover of the home has been called a “provocation” by the IDF. The eviction order says they are violating public order.

The IDF declared the area around the home a closed military zone and is investigating the ownership of the home.

The settlers have records of a purchase deal, including money transfers, which they turned over to the military. 

Settlers reportedly have been purchasing homes and land in Hebron for many years, though many of the purchases have been contested in the courts, according to Ynet.

On Sunday night, about 30 Palestinian and left-wing protesters entered an abandoned home near a yeshiva in Hebron. Two protesters were arrested by Israeli security forces.

Israel not halting settler attacks on Palestinians, EU report says


Israel is not doing enough to stop the large increase in attacks on Palestinians by Jewish extremists, according to an internal European Union report.

The report by the 22 heads of mission of EU countries’ ambassadors in Ramallah said there were 411 assaults in 2011, compared to 266 in 2010 and 132 in 2009, according to Euobserver.com, which saw the report. The Netherlands was the lone country that refused to endorse the report.

The attacks ranged from throwing stones to gunfire, and uprooting olive trees to burning mosques. Three Palestinians were reported dead and 183 injured by the attacks.

Eight Jewish settlers, including five members of the Fogel family, were killed and 37 injured.

The report said that a small “hard-core” group of Jewish settlers carried out the attacks, according to Euobserver. But the diplomats also called the settler attacks part of a broader Israeli campaign to get rid of the Palestinians, saying they “effectively force a withdrawal of the Palestinian population away from the vicinity of settlements, thereby increasing the scope for settlement expansion.”

The EU report said that more than 90 percent of complaints filed by Palestinians ended with no indictment.

Israel has set up a police task force to stop settler attacks and Israeli leaders have roundly condemned such attacks, an Israeli official told Euobserver. The EU report also acknowledged that Israeli soldiers helped prevent attacks during the Palestinian olive harvest last year.

Israel arrests troops for anti-Palestinian vandalism


Three Israeli soldiers were arrested on Tuesday for suspected involvement in pro-settler vandalism and arson, the military said, following a series of attacks in the West Bank that have exacerbated tensions with Palestinians.

Mosques have been torched, graffiti daubed, and Palestinian trees chopped down in the “Price Tag” attacks, so called because they seek to make Palestinians pay for violence against Israelis and the Jewish state pay for its occasional curbs on settlement activity.

Fearing a flare-up in violence, Israel has ordered a police crackdown on the suspected far-right Jewish groups behind the attacks which have also targeted some of Israel’s West Bank garrisons, slashing vehicle tires and defacing property.

Channel Ten TV said the three soldiers were suspected of damaging both Palestinian and Israeli military property.

The arrests are a rare example of conscript troops’ involvement in the Price Tag campaign and a military spokeswoman declined to detail allegations against them, saying that an investigation was under way.

But she said they were taken into custody following the arrest by civilian police on Sunday of a woman and six girls, some of them settlers, for incidents including vandalism of Palestinian trees and army property.

Channel Ten TV said one of three lived in an unauthorized settler outpost, adding that one was also a combat soldier.

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Ben Harding

Israel holds suspects in settler deaths, mosque fire


Israel said on Thursday it had arrested five Palestinians in the West Bank in connection with the stoning of a vehicle that overturned, killing a Jewish settler and his baby late last month.

Their arrest earlier this month was announced after Israel said it was holding a Jewish youth as a suspect in the retaliatory torching of a mosque on Monday in the Arab village of Tuba-Zangariya in northern Israel.

The September 23 deaths of settler Asher Palmer and his son are believed to have driven reprisal “price tag” attacks by pro-settler extremists since then. “Price tag” is what assailants have scrawled as graffiti at the scene of their attacks, alluding to the deaths of the settler father and baby.

Retaliation for the deaths has included the setting of a mosque on fire inside Israel and a stoning attack on Palestinian homes in a West Bank village, which triggered a Palestinian protest in which one person was shot dead by Israeli troops trying to quell it.

An Israeli security official said two Palestinians were suspected of stoning Palmer’s car as he drove in the Hebron area, and that three others were suspected of having taken his gun after he was killed in an ensuing car crash.

The weapon has since been retrieved, said the official, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.

No more details were given about the suspects.

Israeli media said the suspect in the mosque arson was a resident of northern Israel who had been studying at a religious seminary at a settlement in the West Bank, territory Israel occupied in a 1967 war and which Palestinians want for a state.

Three other militant settlers were charged in a court in Jerusalem on Wednesday with planning to set fire to a West Bank mosque.

Mainstream leaders of the 500,000 settlers living in the West Bank have strongly condemned the mosque vandalism and urged the Israeli government to apprehend the perpetrators.

Tensions between settlers and some of the 2.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank have risen alongside a Palestinian application for statehood recognition filed at the United Nations last month, a step Israel opposes.

Palestinians launched the statehood bid a year after peace talks collapsed over Israel’s refusal to extend a partial moratorium on the expansion of settlements in the West Bank.

Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Amona Violence an Uncertain Harbinger


Had Ariel Sharon been able to continue as Israeli prime minister, his main strategic goal would have been establishing a new long-term border between Israel and the West Bank.

That remains the primary aim of his Kadima Party, but last week’s violent clashes between settlers and police at the tiny West Bank outpost of Amona show just how difficult achieving it might be.

The intensity of the confrontation highlighted a profound rift between young settler radicals and the State of Israel. Some even go so far as to say they no longer feel any allegiance to secular Israel and want to establish a theocratic “State of Judea” in its stead.

The confrontation also brought to the surface differences inside the settler movement itself: The young radicals advocate uncompromising physical resistance to any further withdrawal plans; the moderates argue that the most rational thing the settlers can do is work with the government in drawing up new lines that take their interests into account.

The issue surfaced again when Israel’s acting prime minister said a probe into the clashes is unnecessary. Ehud Olmert said at Sunday’s Cabinet meeting that accusations of excessive police force during the Feb. 1 evacuation of Amona should not be investigated because he doesn’t want to politicize the event.

On Sunday night, settlers and their supporters showed they wouldn’t let the issue die easily either, as tens of thousands filled the streets of Jerusalem to rally against what they called an excessive use of police force in quelling the riots.

The already-explosive situation is further complicated by the fact that Israel is in the throes of a general election. All the major parties are trying to exploit government-settler tensions.

In the fighting over the demolition of nine illegal permanent homes built at Amona, more than 200 people were injured. The radical settlers wanted to make a point: Further evacuation of the West Bank will encounter much tougher opposition than the disengagement from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank in the summer did. The police wanted to establish a precedent, too: to show that nothing will deter them from carrying out government policy. Both sides are convinced they got their messages across.

For the young settler radicals, the evacuation of the Gaza and northern West Bank settlements was a traumatic experience. For many it caused a major shift in their attitudes to the State of Israel. From ardent Zionists, they became bitter critics, arguing that settlement is a central Zionist tenet, a step toward the coming of the Messiah, and, therefore, any state that gives up settlements undermines hope for redemption.

“A growing proportion of the National Religious public is becoming post-Zionist,” said Avihai Boaron, a young lawyer who headed the Amona campaign against the homes’ demolition. “The State of Israel is no longer seen as the beginning of redemption. On the contrary, it is seen to be impeding the natural development of the Jewish people. Not very wisely, Israel is turning good citizens from lovers of the country into, dare I say it, enemies of the state.”

For the moderates, the lesson learned from the Gaza withdrawal is very different. For them, the state remains supreme, and the challenge is to prevent a schism between the rest of the people and the settlers.

Leading the moderate camp is Otniel Schneller, a former head of the Yesha council of settlers.

The settlers, he argues, are servants of the majority, as reflected by the elected government. It can expand or curb settlement as it sees fit, and the settlers should go along with whatever decisions it takes. His goal is to avert future confrontation by getting the government to adopt a plan for new borders that most settlers will be able to support.

To this end, he has joined Kadima, and put his plan for settlement relocation on the table. Schneller defines four types of settlement: those inside the separation fence, those close to it, those with strategic or historic value and those far from the fence with neither.

The first three categories would be retained by Israel, the fourth relocated inside the fence or in Israel proper to make way for a contiguous Palestinian state alongside Israel. Schneller said he showed his plan to Sharon the day he suffered his major brain hemorrhage, and to Olmert a few days later. He claims both were impressed and that he has reason to believe the plan will be adopted as official Israeli policy.

The key, though, is how much settler support he gets. Many young radicals are already branding him a traitor. But Schneller claims most settlers are behind him.

“It’s hard to believe. I thought there would be an intifada against me. But it’s just the opposite. People have not stopped phoning me. They want to help, to take things forward, to see where it leads,” he said in an interview.

The current settler council is vacillating. Its leaders maintain close ties with radicals, while exploring compromise proposals of their own with the government. A day after doing virtually nothing to curb settler violence on Amona, council leaders Benzi Lieberman and Zeev Hever met with Foreign and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni to discuss their proposed map of settlement.

The feelers came as all the main political parties are trying to use government-settler tensions in the wake of the Amona clash to score political points. The parties on the right maintain that Olmert deliberately sought the violent confrontation to create a strongman image. On the left, the claim is that under Sharon, things would have been under control, and the level of violence much lower. Olmert’s retort to critics on both sides of the political spectrum is the same: He was simply doing what had to be done — carrying out a Supreme Court order to demolish the illegal homes.

The public seems confused. On the one hand, 50 percent think that Olmert wanted a bloody fight; on the other, 57 percent blame the settlers for the level of violence. More importantly, the Amona fracas seems to be having no perceptible effect on the nation’s voting patterns. In weekend polls after the violence, Kadima still had more than 40 of the 120 Knesset seats, with Labor at somewhere 16 and 21 and the Likud at between 13 and 17.

The fact that such major developments as the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections and the violent police-settler showdown have failed to dent the polls has led several Israeli pundits to conclude that election has, to all intents and purposes, already been decided. Although balloting is still eight weeks away and the campaigns have hardly started, it seems that it will take something really extraordinary to alter the anticipated outcome.

 

Settlers Struggle to Hold Biblical Israel


A battered shipping container was Itai Harel’s first home on this steep, windswept hilltop.

Now he lives in a trailer with running water and electricity, and land has been leveled for more permanent housing in this illegal settlement outpost. He and his fellow young settlers are gearing up to fight for their new hilltop home.

Migron, the largest and most established of the 100 or so illegal Jewish outposts set up across the West Bank, is on the front lines of a looming showdown between the settler movement and the Israeli government. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon recently pledged to dismantle such settlements in accordance with the U.S.-led “road map” peace plan.

On Dec. 28, Israel ordered the removal of four of the outposts. The settlers can now petition against the action through the courts.

But settler rabbis called upon supporters to physically prevent the settlements’ dismantlement, and called upon army officers not to order their soldiers to dismantle the settlements.

Harel expressed similar sentiments.

“We are staying here. It’s our home,” said Harel, 29, vowing to return if the government somehow manages to remove them.

“It is our right to be here; this is our national home,” he said, sweeping his hand toward the view of Arab villages and Jewish settlements on nearby hillsides.

However, the settlers’ position may have been undercut by the National Religious Party (NRP), the main settler political body.

The NRP’s chairman, Housing and Construction Minister Effi Eitam, said Dec. 29 that the NRP would support the removal of four unauthorized outposts if no way could be found to authorize them.

The NRP “is part of the government, part of the rule of law in the State of Israel. If, in the end, after every avenue has been pursued, these outposts cannot be authorized, then we will not be able to support anything that is not legal,” Eitam told Israel’s Army Radio.

Over the past two years, 42 families have moved to Migron. They are young, defiant and fiercely ideological. Casting themselves as part of a continuum of ancient and modern Jewish history, they view their unauthorized building of an outpost about 20 minutes drive north of Jerusalem as key to strengthening the Jewish claim to biblical Israel. They also see it as similar to efforts by early Zionists to create “facts on the ground” in what became Israel proper.

Critics and the U.S. government see the outposts, built hastily and without government approval, as yet another obstacle to peace efforts with the Palestinians.

Harel and his friends at Migron, which is named after a biblical-era settlement in the region, are hesitant to say exactly how they would resist soldiers should they attempt an evacuation.

Pinchas Wallerstein, who heads the local settlement region of the West Bank, called Binyamin, said he hopes the Israeli courts will help prevent an evacuation order.

If that fails, he said he foresees thousands of supporters coming to Migron to help thwart police and army forces.

“If we have 7,000 to 10,000 people here it will not be possible to evacuate us,” Wallerstein said, addressing a wedding party from Houston that had come to see Migron as part of a tour of West Bank Jewish settlements. “Why is it legitimate to evacuate Jewish settlements but we cannot withdraw [Arab villages?]” he asked, calling any evacuation a reward for terrorism.

Before climbing back on their bus, the visiting Americans posed for pictures with Wallerstein, who has temporarily moved the Binyamina headquarters to Migron to head the campaign against its possible removal.

In a show of solidarity, Israel’s well-organized settler movement has helped facilitate visits by thousands of people to Migron in recent weeks.

Jerry Silverman, one of the wedding party members, said he hoped the issue would be resolved through negotiations.

“The American government is not in charge of Israel,” he said.

Sharon, long a patron of the settler movement, is under intense pressure from the U.S. administration to fulfill Israel’s obligations under the road map, beginning with the dismantling of illegal outposts that have cropped up over the last several years. Many were established in the immediate aftermath of Arab terrorist attacks on local settlers.

In a speech earlier this month, Sharon said some settlements would have to be evacuated if Israel disengages physically from the Palestinians.

The first Israeli presence on the hill where Migron stands today were cell phone towers built by local phone companies four years ago. Young settlers followed about two years later.

The Israeli government said it expects to begin evacuating settlement outposts in the next few weeks. Officials hope settlers will leave without a fight.

“If the outposts are illegal, then they will be dealt with — hopefully with persuasion, but otherwise with force,” said Zalman Shoval, a foreign policy adviser to Sharon.

“Hopefully that won’t be necessary,” he added quickly.

The four outposts slated for quick removal reportedly are Ginot Aryeh, near Ofra; Hazon David, near Kiryat Arba; Bat Ayin Ma’arav, in Gush Etzion; and Havat Shaked, near Yitzhar.

Only one of the outposts — Ginot Aryeh — is inhabited, with about 10 families living there as well as a few single people.

Unlike most other outposts, Migron is more than a small collection of tents and trailers. There is a paved circular road and two buildings with stone facades, one that serves as a synagogue, the other a nursery school.

Still, amenities are basic.

Next to the community’s row of portable toilets is a large white plastic tent for meetings and celebrations. Trailers are clustered in muddy patches of land. A private security guard in a fleece jacket and armed with an Uzi machine gun mans the entrance. A fence topped with rings of barbed wire surrounds the outpost.

“It’s clear it is worth the price. We are here to live a quality life, to live an ideal,” Harel said.

Peace activists say that ideal is misguided and dangerous. It also does not represent the views of most Israelis, who according to polls, are willing to withdraw from most West Bank and Gaza Strip settlements in the event of an eventual peace deal with the Palestinians.

As long as settlement building continues, “we will be doomed to more and more international condemnation, economic recession and violence,” said Dror Etkes, who coordinates Peace Now’s Settlement Watch Project. “Another settlement is another rock in the occupation and oppression [of the Palestinians].”

Etkes said he saw Sharon’s recent policy speech as a potential turning point since the Israeli government has yet to dismantle any settlements of significant size.

“If the settlements are uprooted then the first inroads will be made,” he said. “Migron could be the first uprooted and this will be a historic event.”

Shlomo and Hagit Ha’Cohen, both 25, see Migron’s place in history differently.

They say they are living Jewish history in their decision to live and establish a family in Migron. Hagit, who teaches history and civics at a Jerusalem high school, is expecting the couple’s first child in January.

“We see this as our home forever, even if there are problems along the way,” said her husband, a yeshiva student who plans to study civil engineering. “With all due respect to the Americans, at the end of the day we are the ones who decide.”

Sitting in their bookshelf-lined three-room trailer, for which they pay $70 a month rent, Shlomo cites the story of Chanukah and the conflict between the ancient Greeks and the Israelites.

“Many imperial powers have told us what to do throughout history. They no longer exist. Israel is still here,” he said. “Our path is clear, we know where we want to go.”