Many on the Israeli right reacted with outrage at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent suggestion that, under a peace agreement, Israelis living in West Bank settlements could choose to remain under Palestinian sovereignty. But, among settlers themselves, it seems that all options are on the table.
Meir Nachliel, 47, a resident of Ofra, a Jewish town near Ramallah, has no doubt whatsoever.
“I would stay — if faced with the choice of leaving of staying, then yes.”
Mr Nachliel, the CEO of the Hebron Mountain Development Company, said his decision based on one simple concept: “Eretz Israel hashelema” — the greater land of Israel. “This belongs to the Jewish people. We want to remain under Israeli rule, but if that fails and the price we’d pay is to leave this place, then of course we’ll stay.”
Asked whom he meant by “we”, Mr Nachliel, a former mayor of Ofra, replied, “my family and myself”. But he conceded that, “the children don’t agree, and my wife isn’t 100 per cent sure yet.”
But Mr Nachliel is not alone.Los Angeles native, Orit Arfa, a writer in her 30s and a resident for the past year of Ariel, one of the largest West Bank towns, firmly asserted that her home “is a consensus city in Israel that no Israeli government has agreed to cede in any land negotiation”. But, given the hypothetical dilemma, she said, “I would absolutely live in a Palestinian state provided that it grants individual rights to minorities, as does Israel.
“Jews have lived under non-Jewish sovereignty and among non-Jews for centuries,” she points out, “thriving and suffering depending on the quality of governance. I would accept starting the trend of Jews living freely under benign Arab rule, which would surely signal real peace.”
Ms Arfa would hope to “contribute to Palestinian society and to ensure minority rights are protected”.
Of course, not everyone concurs. Aliza Herbst, 61, a native of San Antonio, Texas, and a neighbour of Mr Nachliel in Ofra, said that she “made aliyah to Israel. I want to live in the sovereign state of Israel, not in a state of Palestine.”
Mrs Herbst did not dwell on the possibility of a peace plan. “It doesn’t seem like the other side is interested in making any kind of agreement,” she said.