Blame Brooklyn

Fundamentalist Settlers Have a Borough Accent

"They are sitting in a place that doesn't belong to them—looking for trouble," she said. "If it weren't for the settlers we could have made a border, a separation, since there is no way to make peace with the Palestinians."

There are 220,000 settlers, including an estimated 10,000 Americans, in the West Bank and Gaza settlements. Many Israelis believe that 70 to 80 percent of them are simply there for economic reasons—the cheap housing and the government benefits.

But, in recent months, the quality of life in the settlements has deteriorated to the point where it is dangerous to stick your nose out of the house. This gives the pragmatists hope that these "economic settlers" would leave tomorrow if the price were right. And the right price is astronomical. The figure being tossed around by the right wing is $200 billion, so it is probably more like $20 billion.

"It's still the cheapest way," said Naomi Chazan, a member of the Knesset from the opposition Meretz Party. "Anything that only costs money is cheap in this business because it is much less costly than war and ongoing conflict."

Ezra Rosenfeld, who came to Israel 32 years ago from Far Rockaway, doesn't agree.

"Some settlers may have come to find cheaper housing, but today most of the people are seriously, ideologically committed to living in the historic Land of Israel," said Ezra, who works at the Yesha Council, which inherited Gush Emunim's ideological hat. "The stories of the Bible took place in Judaea and Samaria, not in Tel Aviv or other places on the coastal plain.

"The vast majority will not take any cash settlement," he said.

No matter who is right, there are sure to be hardcore settlers who would refuse to obey any government order to evacuate. They may not have political or military power, but they have an incredibly big stick—the threat of civil conflict. If only we could send them back to Brooklyn.

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