for the settlers of Goush Etzion, “annexation will not change anything”

Occupied West Bank, Efrat settlement Tanya Habjouqa / NOOR for Le Monde Street views of settlement


Posted today at 02:08

With its identical subdivisions, red roofs and beige walls that unfold as far as the eye can see along clean streets, its inhabitants who greet each other from afar in English, Efrat has the air of a New Jersey suburb. On condition of ignoring the Israeli flags which float on the balconies and the silhouette of a Palestinian village clinging to the rocky hills, just in front. “It is a colony and I am proud to live there”, explains Ben-Ami Menzin, who walks his dog in this locality of 9,500 inhabitants of Gush Etzion, an Israeli settlement block between Bethlehem and Hebron, in the West Bank.

Ben-Ami Menzin, ex-New Yorker, in a street of Efrat, in July.

The 43-year-old former New Yorker came to get some” fresh air “, half an hour from Jerusalem, where he works. Originally founded by religious nationalist settlers, shortly after the occupation of the West Bank in 1967, Goush Etzion became “A suburb of Jerusalem where people come because housing is cheaper”, notes Lior Amihai, director of the Israeli anti-occupation NGO Yesh Din.

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Many Israelis see this area and the other large settlement blocs in the occupied West Bank as already part of their state. After promising to extend from 1er July Israeli sovereignty to 30% of the West Bank – that is to say all the Israeli settlements, illegal in the eyes of international law, and the Jordan Valley -, it was whispered that the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, could announce, in a first time, a “minimalist” annexation of these colonies. The American godfather – who had given the green light with the Trump plan for the Middle East, unveiled in January – no longer seemed so enthusiastic and the ruling coalition in Israel was divided on the subject.

The road leading to the Palestinian village of Nahleh in July, with a former abandoned IDF checkpoint.  In this area the Israeli settlements and Palestinian villages are very intertwined, greatly complicating traffic to the city of Bethlehem.

“Under the stone throws”

The deadline has passed without any announcement being made. “It was not a deadline”, remember Josh Hasten, spokesperson for the Gush Etzion regional council, only “The earliest possible date”. He says he is confident that the Prime Minister “Will make the right decision” and will trigger the annexation ” in the coming weeks “. For two weeks, however, the subject has not made the headlines, swept away by the demonstrations against the economic crisis and the resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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In Efrat, most of the settlers shrug their shoulders. “Annexation will not change anything”, assures Ben-Ami Menzin. In thirty years, the colony has established itself as a fait accompli. When Peter arrived from New York, with wife and children, in the early 1990s, it had only 500 inhabitants and you had to cross Bethlehem, the neighboring Palestinian city, to reach Jerusalem, “Sometimes under the throwing of stones”. Five years later, Israel built the “Tunnel Road” at great expense, reserved for Israeli car owners. “The journey to Jerusalem has been shortened and you no longer have to meet people who made this journey … how can I put it? … more sensitive”, says the septuagenarian, who refuses to give his name.

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