Yesterday’s NY Times (July 27) featured a long article about the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) inhabitants of the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit, a homogeneous city of 40,000 (the West Bank’s largest Jewish community). On the same day, the PBS “World Focus” news program also featured this settlement. (Incidentally, the same program featured a segment about how the marked lifting of roadblocks and waiting times at many checkpoints [in response to US pressure] has created a new economic boomlet and an air of optimism for the first time in years among West Bank Palestinians– but this is literally another story.)
These Haredim live an insular parochial life style, but are not right-wing nationalists. They are not even considered Zionists. Their large families, however– commonly including five, six, even ten children– make up about half of the “natural growth” that Prime Minister Netanyahu is arguing over with Pres. Obama’s administration. Beitar Illit is also directly along the pre-June ’67 boundary; the Times reporters even spoke with inhabitants who were not aware that it is over the line in the West Bank.
Some residents expressed a willingness to move back to Israel proper if they were compensated for their property, but the article also makes the point that this town could easily be absorbed into Israel in a land swap with the Palestinians, of the sort long proposed by doves on both sides. There was also a reference to the notion that some Haredi residents provided documents which supported Palestinian claims in the Supreme Court ruling two years ago, which partially favored the inhabitants of nearby Bilin, struggling against the separation barrier.