ALL IS NOT QUIET ON THE WESTERN BANK
For Haj Fahmi Sa'eed Abu Audeh, the peace promise of Camp David died at 8:15 one morning last May. That was when Israeli bulldozers growled, roared, and rumbled over his white-gold field of wheat.
Oddly enough, Israel's settlement drive on the occupied West Bank of the Jordan River had been all but idle in the eight months before President Carter, Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat, and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin sealed their "framework" for Middle East peace in September 1978.
Since then, that campaign has hurtled back into high gear.
"We thought Camp David would mean the Israelis would leave our land and there would be peace," says Haj Fahmi, headman of the Arab village of Aqraba, on a ridge above the Jordan Valley. "But the opposite happened. They are taking land they did not touch before."
President Carter thought the Israeli summit team had agreed to freeze settlement pending agreement on "autonomy" for the West Bank's 700,000 Palestinians and a final peace accord by 1984.
As US officials and the West Bankers saw it, a negotiated compromise for the territory captured from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war would be all but impossible as long as Israel kept planting outposts there.
Mr. Carter had misunderstood, Mr. Begin promptly announced. The freeze would last only three months. Israeli policy has since made that abundantly clear:
* Existing settlements such as the blocklike, beige houses of Gitit below Aqraba, kept pulsing outward. There, some 16 months after Camp David, the earthmovers are back. They have plowed a new road through another smaller, younger patch of wheat.
They have cleared two more of Aqraba's traditional valley plots for Gitit. And the Israeli military government has formally "closed" land formerly tilled by Aqraba's sister village, Majdel Bani Fadel, for unspecified "public" purposes.
In recent weeks Gitit has also mounted several dozen low, temporary structures on a hillock east of the existing settlement. "They are military," explained one young Israeli, declining to elaborate.
That is entirely possible. Yet the term "military" has become something of a buzzword for opponents on West Bank settlement. Most of the Jewish enclaves started as military outposts, only to become full-fledged civilian installations.
* New settlements, meanwhile, have been sprouting apace. Less than a month after camp David, Matityahu Drobles, settlement chief of Israel's extragovernmental Jewish Agency, mapped out some 70 prospective sites. As of this writing, the government has approved, started, or completed work on 13 of them -- mostly in the area's densely populated heartland, virtually exempt from settlement until Mr. Begin came to power in 1977.
Government approval of the most recent ones, Givon B and Levona, was reported by the Israeli media only Jan. 20, as the US-mediated talks on Palestinian autonomy lumbered unencouraging toward their spring |980 target date.
Clearing work also appears to have begun at a site about a mile north of Kiryat Arba, just outside the Arab town of Hebron, and one of the oldest and largest Israeli settlements. Pro-settlement Israelis say that an extension of Kiryat Arba will go up here. If so, it would clearly be a separate site and mark post- Camp David Outpost No. 14.
The current settlement total stands at 65, based on research by this reporter and various Israeli, Palestinian, and Western experts. The arithmetic gets a little complicated. Israel, apparently sensitive to international opposition to its expansion on the West Bank, has taken to announcing new sites as a simple "thickening" of existing ones. With almost cellular regularity, outposts have spawned sub-outposts and sub-sub- outposts.
For this survey, each separate site peopled by a separate group of Israeli is deemed a new settlement.
Roughly 10,000 Israelis on the West Bank, meanwhile, have banded into a number of regional councils. Local media reports say the groups are technically dependent on the Israeli military governments but will enjoy wide rein in allocating West Bank water, planning the development of their existing outposts, and purchasing land.
Some Israeli media have suggested that this is the first step toward outright annexation of the West Bank. Most diplomats doubt this -- if only because such a step would endanger relations with the United States, Israeli's chief aid and arms patron. Yet the move does underscore the government's stated refusal to return the West Bank to Arab sovereignty, or to freeze -- much less dismantle -- settlements.
The settlements still cover only about 1.2 percent of the West Bank's 1.34 million acres of olive hillsides, rugged ridges, and scorched lowland. But it is the trend, much more than the totals, the angers West Bankers, US negotiators , and indeed much of the international community.
The "Droubles plan," recently expanded and provide in map form to The Christian Science Monitor, envisages settlement "blocks" encircling the West Bank's major Arab towns. The plan is not definitive, in that it requires settlement-by-settlement government endorsement. Yet all sites started or approved since Camp David figured on Mr. Drobles's October 1978 blueprint.
Mr. Drobles, a friend of Mr. Begin's, shares the prime minister's conviction that the West Bank must remain part of Israel. Both fear establishment of a Palestinian state. The West Bankers, Mr. Drobles says forthrightly, "will find it difficult to unite and create a continuous territorial entity if cut off by Jewish settlements."
Concerned Israelis stress that such a strategy cannot help but affect moves for an eventual peace formula. Jewish outposts in the crowded West Bank hearland, said the Jerusalem Post Jan. 14, serve "no purpose except to threaten the Arabs all around with disinheritance.
"The settlements are, by their very dynamic, calculated to leave any future [ Israeli] regime only one practical choice: the extension of Israel's sovereignty" to the West Bank.
The arguments for and against settlement are by now as familiar as they are irreconcilable:
International law (Article 49 of the Geneva Convention for protection of civilians in time of war) bars an occupying power from settling occupied territory. Yet security outposts are permitted. The Israeli government, against mounting skepticism even inside the country, maintains that by moving (armed) civilians onto the West Bank it is complicating Jordan's task in any future Middle East war.
More than a few prominent Israelis have chuckled openly at the prospect of ultranationalist settlers, with a rifle in one hand and the Bible in the other, holding of King Hussein's Jordanian Army. But many Israelis do accept at least one facet of the security argument -- namely, that Israel cannot yet afford to pull out of the West Bank without reverting to the squeezed and "indefensible" borders of pre-1967.
The argument has particular force in Israel, a state that literally has right to survive for three decades, in light of Jordan's vocal opposition to Israel's current US-mediated peace moves.
Prime Minister Begin and the settlers themselves will often add that "religion" gives Jews a right to the West Bank; that, after all, they lived there in biblical times. But even Israel's own Supreme Court, ordering a fledging settlement from private Arab land near Nablus in late 1979, said that argument wouldn't wash.
"The bottom line in most Israelis' support for settlement," contends a Western diplomat, "is that they just don't feel they can afford to get out of the West Bank."
The bottom line for most of the outside world is that there can never be peace in the Middle East without agreement of the Palestinians and other Arabs -- and that Israeli settlement is surely no help in that regard.
Besides, notwithstanding Israel's contention that Arab bluster prompted its preemptive strike in 1967, the Jewish state did take the West Bank by force. If Jews lived there millennia ago, Palestinian Arabs are more recent tenants. Israel, the argument goes, is simply settling other people's land.
Haj Fahmi Sa'eed Abu Audeh seems more farmer than politician. He wants that land.
So does Ahmed Badran, a native of the West Bank village of Azzun, who lost olive and almond trees to the new settlement of Karnei Shomron B in May 1979. And so does Rashid Hijazi, a Jerusalem shopkeeper who has a purchase notice on official Jordanian stationery for a plot commanding the eastern approaches to that disputed city.
In the summer of 1979 Israeli bulldozers sliced through part of that land for the new settlement of Ein Shemesh, which will, in effect, complete an Israeli settlement ring around Jerusalem. Arabs from Aqraba and nearby Majdel Bani Fadel have for generations tilled and grazed livestock on the narrow valley below. Then came the settlement of Gitit in 1972. Key to settlement names
Settlements founded before [Word Illegible] took office
9. Maaleh Efrain
13. Netiv Hagdud
17. Reihan B
19. Mevo Shiloh
20. Cochay Shachar
22. Mevo Horon
24. Mitzpe Shalem
25. Har Giloh
26. Rosh Tzurim
27. Alon Shvut
28. Kefar Ezyon
31. Kiryat Arba
32. Yatir (Outside West Bank, claims land inside)
Settlements founded or legalized during Begin era Before Camp David summit
3. Maale Hanal
4. Shavei Shomron
7. Kamei Shomron
13. Kfar Ruth
14. Beit el
15. Beit El B
17. Beit Horon
19. Mitzpeh Jericho
20. Mishor Adumim
21. Migdal Oz
22. Nahal Zohar
1. Reihan C
3. West A
4. Shavei Shomron A
5. Maale Nahal A
6. Kedumim b
7. Kedumim C
8. Kedumim D
9. Tirza E
10. Tirza D
11. Tirza C
12. Tirza B
14. Alon Moreh H
15. Alon Moreh d
16. Alon Moreh b
17. Alon Moreh c
18. Kamei Shomron c
19. Kamei Shomron F
20. Kamei Shomron D
21. Kamei Shomron E
23. Ariel B
24. Shiloh D
25. Shiloh C
26. Shiloh B
27. Halamish D
28. Halamish B
29. Halamish C
30. Matityahu B
31. Givon C
32. Rimonim B
33. Maale Adumim D
34. Maale Adumim C
37. Roi D
38. Neima B
39. Neima A
40. Neima C
41. Almog B
42. Mitzpe Jericho B
43. Beit Haarava
46. Etzyon B
50. Tirat Horesh
53. Yatir B
55. Meon Carmel
57. Yatir C
58. West D
59. Mevo Shiloh b
Settlements founded or legalized by Begin after Camp David summit
1. Mehola B
2. New Musuah
5. Jebel kbir
6. Elon Moreh (Evacuated)
7. Kamei Shomron B
10. Givon B
11. Maaleh Adumim b
12. Ein Shemesh
14. Possible settlement (Separate from, but claimed as extension of, Kiryat Arba)
Now many of the younger villagers have simply left. They work in Jordan, in Saudi Arabia, or in Kuwait and send money home. Some commute to Israel proper. Others among those who have stayed do occasional day labor in Gitit or other settlements: It pays well by local standards, about $10 a day.
The bulldozers that cut down the Aqraba headman's wheat crop were driven by hired Arabs, he says.
The elders, meanwhile, have been reduced to tending small fruit or vegatable plots on the rolling village approaches as Gitit expands in the valley that was once theirs.
They sit like still life on stone terrace or wooden stools. In identical black-checked Arab headdress, with identically taut, stubby faces, they stare skyward. They drink tea. And they talk.
"The Israelis," charges Haj Fahmi Abu Audeh, "are slowly strangling us."
Gitit, founded under Israel's earlier, more moderate Labor Party leadership, began like many West Bank settlements, as a paramilitary outpost. But from the start, it planned to farm, and veteran Western diplomats recall that it started by defoliating some 1,250 acres of valley land long cultivated by Aqrabans.
Things were relatively quiet in Gitit until camp David, nearby Arab villagers say.
Then, in May 1979 the bulldozers suddenly went at Mr. Abu Audehhs wheat field. This reporter happened through the valley only days later. Severed wheat stalks peeped out from freshly turned earth. In an adjacent field, uncut grain wafted in the spring breeze.
Now, less than a year later, the machines have plowed up fresh turf.
And Majdel Bani Fadel has been told, in effect, to steer clear of 27 valley plots and report to Israeli authorities with any relevant ti[words omitted from source] survey map drawn in british mandate times some 50 years ago. The chart divides the valley land between Aqraba and Majdel Bani Fadel. "I've been farming that land, or grazing my sheep there, for 40 years," says one of the men in a near whisper. "My great-grandfather farmed there in [Ottoman] Turkish times."
Below, inside the fenced confines of Gitit, a settler acknowledges that it was a mistake to plow under Haj Fahmi Abu Audeh's wheat crop, that it appears he had clear little to the land. As such, under official Israeli policy, the settlers should have avoided his plot. He can plant freely again this year, the settler says.
As for two adjacent parcels claimed by Aqraba but now cleared for Gitit, the settler says: "We have been told by the authorities that the Arabs don't have the proper papers for them . . . since there is an occupation, they cannot farm there."
In one sense, the Israelis may well be right. No one can say whether the villagers weathered survey map would stand up in an Israeli court -- increasingly, the forum for battles over settlement.
Land ownership is sometimes hazy on the West Bank. Plots may be farmed by tradition, not title deed.
In another sense, that may be beside the point. For Aqraba and Majdel Bani Fadel, the issue is much simpler: "We were here before 1967, before the Israeli troops," says Haj Fahmi Abu Audeh.
Asked about Israel's contention that many villagers may not have the papers to prove it, the headman shoots back, "How dare they ask for papers! We are farmers. This is our life, and our land.
"We have been here for generations, and they come and steal from us."
Then, arching an arm toward Gitit below, he says quietly: "May allah destroy their houses."