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Why Israeli settlements debate is heating up again

Critics say the placement and size of a newly proposed Israeli build-out would doom a two-state deal.


The E1 project area, background, seen from the Israeli West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim, near East Jerusalem, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012.

Dan Balilty/AP

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Palestinians seek a state in the West Bank and Gaza with a capital in East Jerusalem, which together represent about 22 percent of historical Palestine. Israel captured those areas in the 1967 war with its Arab neighbors, and has since withdrawn fully only from Gaza.

From the moment of Israel's 1967 victory, successive Israeli administrations have been divided about whether to claim all of the biblical land of Israel, build up settlements only in areas that would provide a security buffer against Arab neighbors, or refrain from building and trade land for peace.

The Israeli public is also divided. The mainstream agrees that major settlement blocs near the 1967 border would be absorbed into Israel under a future peace deal, while the rest of the West Bank would be given to the new Palestinian state.

But many settlers are driven by a conviction that God promised this land to the Jews, and that reclaiming it will usher in the messianic age. They describe settlement activity with a Hebrew word that means to take possession of an inheritance, and argue that no one can barter away that inheritance.


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