Emboldened settlers transform West Bank

AFP 28/02/20

Around the time US President Donald Trump took office, a group of Israeli families more than 10,000 kilometres (6,000 miles) away started a wildcat settlement near the Dead Sea in the Palestinians territories. In the three years since, it has become the outpost of Kedem Arava, home to 40 families. It is believed to be the first Israeli settlement of the Trump era, and one of dozens built under the decade-long rule of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Today, barefoot children run around happily and race their bicycles between its mobile homes. “It’s a paradise for kids,” said Ifat Lev, a 32-year-old mother-of-two living in the outpost near Jericho in the Jordan Valley. “Since they turned two, they have been out with their friends, mixing like one family.”

Palestinians and the international community may consider such outposts illegal and impediments to peace — but to their residents, they’re home and the families are determined to stay. Kerem Arava, protected by the Israeli army and guarded by razor wire, is a close-knit community that celebrates what it sees as its youthful pioneering spirit … Under the Trump plan, small places like Kedem Arava could become towns or even cities — like Ariel, which boasts a university, or a region like Gush Etzion which is now seeing its third generation of residents born. “I don’t call this a settlement. I call this my homeland,” said Yehuda Leuchter, a musician who lives with his five children in Gush Etzion. “We are here. We are not asking ourselves if we are supposed to be here. We are here.”…


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