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Youths’ Abduction Stirs Israeli Sympathy for Settlers

 

An Israeli government minister who paid a visit this week to the family of one of the ab­ducted West Bank teens told Al-Monitor that he can’t remember seeing such a wave of support for the settlers in years. A leader of the settler movement who accompanied the minister on his visit agreed, adding that the abduction of the three teens on June 12 has resulted in such widespread expressions of sympathy and support that he doesn’t re­member anything like it in the past.

For years, there has been a separation be­tween Israel within (west of) the Green Line and Israel beyond (east of) it. This line divided Israeli politics into left and right. Ever since the Six Day War, the dialogue within Israeli society has revolved around this division between Is­rael within the Green Line and the Greater Is­rael after the war.

Throughout the first and second intifa­das, there were many voices in the public dis­course blaming the settlers for the series of terrorist attacks in Israel. The left regarded the settlements as an obstacle to peace; the right regarded them as an obstacle to war. On the left, authors, intellectuals, pundits and politi­cians took the position that Israel’s very domi­nation of the territories was the main cause of Palestinian violence. For many Israelis, life be­yond the Green Line was like living in anoth­er country. Time after time, surveys confirmed that most Israelis had never set foot in the ter­ritories and that many of them had never ac­tually seen a settlement up close.

Then the three teenagers were abduct­ed. It’s hard to think of another event in the territories that has evoked so much sympa­thy among Israelis. Danny Dayan, the for­mer head of the umbrella settlement organ­ization the Yesha Council, told Al-Monitor that the brutal murder of the Fogel family (in March 2011, in the settlement of Itamar, two young Palestinians stabbed and shot the cou­ple and three of their children to death) may have sparked a huge wave of support, but even that is a far cry from that surrounding the abduction of the boys. “I can’t remem­ber support similar to what is being shown to the families of the abductees,” said Dayan, who now heads the Yesha Council’s diplomat­ic campaign.

While spending time with the families in the Etzion settlement bloc, he ran into large groups of visitors who seemed com­pletely new to the settlement experience, in­cluding members of kibbutzim aligned with the HaShomer HaTza’ir movement and groups of Israelis from across the political spec­trum. For many, this was their first visit to the territories. “I want to believe that this is really a welcome change in attitude toward us,” he said, trying hard to hide his surprise. “I have no doubt that since this is about the kidnapping of teens and because the parents are remain­ing so respectable in the face of their personal tragedy, it is hard for any Israeli to remain ap­athetic. I assume that people miss this kind of Israeli identity, this kind of restraint. I actually believe that rumors of hatred toward the set­tlers were premature.”

Politicians were also quick to catch this wave of legitimization. And not just politicians from the right visited the homes of the ab­ducted boys’ families. There were also leftists, some of whom on a very rare crossing of the Green Line. Rallies in support of the abduct­ees and their families took place throughout the country. The abduction of the three teens evoked a degree of public support that hasn’t been seen for years. This change contrasts in­versely to public attitudes toward the settlers. A survey conducted at Ariel University shows a poor image of the settlers in the eyes of the Israeli public at large. The findings, published a few weeks ago, show that the hostility of the general public toward the settlers and the set­tlement enterprise has been rising steadily.

“I am aware of the extensive public support for the settlers that there is to­day,” acknowledged Gadi Blatiansky, chair­man of the Geneva Initiative nongovern­mental organization, in a conversation with Al-Monitor. ”But I would say that this attitude has two stages. In the first stage, the settlers receive empathy from the gen­eral public and feel that ‘We are all respon­sible for one another,’ [a Jewish traditional rule of life often quoted as a sign of Jewish peoplehood]. In the second stage, however, once the abduction episode is over, people will start asking themselves uncomfortable questions, like, ‘What are we doing there, and is the price we are paying worth it?’“

Blatiansky and the members of the Ge­neva Initiative group have been working for years to instill the principles of a two-state solution among the general public. Recent­ly, he has begun to feel that the public has grown tired of sacrificing resources for the benefit of the settlement enterprise. That is, until the abduction, of course, which gives the impression that the wheel is turning back.

“I feel that an uncompromising polit­ical struggle is being waged by the settle­ment leaders to exploit the abduction to shift public opinion,” he said, adding, “At this stage, it is taking place aggressively in the social networks. They write down everyone who came to visit and especial­ly everyone who didn’t pay a visit. They give grades to those who showed warmth to the families of the abductees and those who sat on the sidelines without saying a word. I can only express my hopes that when this dark cloud passes, the trend that existed before the abduction returns.”

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/ pulse/originals/2014/06/kidnapping-set­tlers-dayan-blatiansky-fogel.html?utm_ source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEn glish%5D&utm_campaign=f5d8997b11- June_20_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_ term=0_28264b27a0-f5d8997b11- 93120189#ixzz35WdRVA4f

By Daniel Ben Simo/Al-Monitor.com Translator(s) Danny Wool

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