Some Israeli settlements could go

Wednesday, January 9th 2008, 5:24 pm
By: News 9


President Bush met with Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert today, and said he believes Israeli and Palestinian leaders have the willingness and desire to create a Palestinian state.

Fundamental to any peace deal between the Palestinians and Israelis will be the evacuation of at least some Israeli settlements in the West Bank. But Israelis are already opposing any halt to settlements there.

Twenty-five years ago, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin left his Manhattan synagogue to settle in Efrat, a biblical town and disputed settlement.

"I wanted to be part of the biblical covenant promised 4000 years ago.  That even if we were scattered across the heavens, God would gather us up and restore us to the land of our forefathers," he said.

But Efrat looks more like an American suburb than a biblical town these days. With more than 7,000 residents, and plans for more, the sprawling area consists of 30 percent immigrants from the United States.

Palestinians say this is occupied land and the settlements are illegal under international law. President Bush agrees in that he said he will pressure Israel to put a halt to settlements.

Eve Harrow left Los Angeles 20 years ago to live in Efrat. Though she usually supports Bush's policies, she doesn't approve of this policy.

"I find it insulting that everybody has to stop the worse thing they are doing.  So, the Arabs should stop terrorism and we should stop settlement building.  Like that is the worst thing that we are doing.  As if these two things are equal," said Harrow.

Israel has forcibly dismantled its settlements in the past, notably in Gaza in 2005 -- what was called the "disengagement".

Rabbi Riskin concedes that some of the settlements will have to go, but he is confident that President Bush will not force Israel to give up major settlement blocks - including Efra based on a shared religious conviction, Riskin told CNN.

"President Bush who calls himself a born-again Christian, who is a deeply religious Christian, has been very, very good to Israel,” said Riskin. “And there is no question in my mind that friendship is due to our biblical mooring and his biblical moorings."