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West Bank settlements become havens of Israeli surburbanites

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About 30 percent of those are ultra-Orthodox Jews for whom the primary goal is living in an affordable religious com-munity, irrespective of whether it lies beyond the Green Line, Israel's pre-1967 borders. New immigrants, such as Americans and those from the former Soviet Union, make up a smaller portion.

Generally most don't like to be called settlers because, as one settlement council head says, settlers have been made out to be the world's "pariahs." But they might agree to be called the new settlers, if the word were to be used in the most positive sense, as in the early American pioneers.

With the West Bank in Israel's hands for 42 years, many middle-of-the-road Israelis see little reason not to move there – particularly to long-established, larger settlements, or those close to the Green Line.

They're educated, often upper-middle-class, and not exclusively from right-wing backgrounds. They're more likely to be armed with an iPod than an Uzi. And unlike the settlers who tend to grab headlines, they're not interested in using force or violence to stop another evacuation of settlements, largely expected to be a feature of any Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty.

But why take the risk of investing in a home on disputed territory? Among other reasons, settlers are bearish on the prospects of the peace process leading anywhere soon – if ever.

"THIS AREA IS NOT LIKELY TO EVER BE EVACUATED," says Moti Ovadiah, who moved to Kiryat Netafim a year ago, shortly after his wife, Vered, gave birth to their son, Ishai.

Kiryat Netafim, tucked into a comely, mountainous area – from which the Tel Aviv skyline is visible – is next to the settlement of Barkan and its large industrial park.

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