Home > Diplomacy, Settlement Freeze, West Bank Law Enforcement > Maariv: Mitchell team ‘raiding West Bank settlements’

Maariv: Mitchell team ‘raiding West Bank settlements’

 

Americans raid settlements

Ben Kaspit, Maariv, November 25 2009 [page 5]

The Americans are taking off the gloves and going into the field: In the past few days, American diplomats, who apparently belong to envoy George Mitchell’s team, have started to travel through Judea and Samaria and tour the Jewish settlements there, holding interviews and inquiries with the local leaders and other settlers, in order to get the feel of the situation on the ground.

The first of these diplomats arrived on Monday in the settlement Efrat.  This is Cindy-Noga Trin, a diplomat stationed at the US consulate in Jerusalem, who appears to belong to envoy Mitchell’s team.  She visited Efrat, a large Jewish settlement, and interviewed Council Chairman Oded Revivi at length, and four additional residents (one of whom is a relative of Ari Harrow, the prime minister’s bureau chief).

Trin arrived in a bulletproofed van, accompanied by a driver and security guard, and was businesslike and polite.  She took out a thick notebook and filled it diligently.  Every word that came out of the mouth of Council Chairman Revivi, a lieutenant colonel in reserves, who was elected to his post about a year ago, was written down and filed.  “We want to get a feel on the situation on the ground,” she said to Revivi, “my next stops are Kiryat Arba, and then Tapuah junction.”

The conversation was similar to a cross-examination.  The bizarre part of the event was when the US diplomat repeatedly asked Revivi, “why aren’t you continuing to build?” and “who is preventing you from building?”  Revivi explained that Efrat had not received building permits for the past eight years.

Trin persisted: “The city is supposed to reach 30,000 residents, you have master plans here, who is stopping construction?  And how long haven’t you received permits?”  Revivi explained: “Here, in Givat Hazayit, in the heart of the settlement, there is no expansion of the perimeter line, there are plans here for 400 housing units, the Housing Ministry completed the infrastructure at an investment of millions, but the land is not being marketed.”  Trin asked, “why?” and Revivi said that he had no idea, and showed her two other hills (Givat Hadagan and Givat Hatamar) with the same problem.

Trin took an interest in the way of life in the settlement, the sources of livelihood and the relations with the Arab neighbors.  Revivi planned a tour for her in the nearby village, Wadi Nis, and coordinated the matter with the Arab residents, but Trin’s appearance with a large bulletproofed vehicle and security guards caused the village residents to change their minds.

Revivi told the American diplomat about the good neighborly relations with the village residents.  “There is no fence between Efrat and the Arab villages.  Together with our Arab neighbors, we fought against the fence and won,” he said.  “This is the only place where Arabs and Jews demonstrated today and prevented a fence.  Our Arab neighbors have called twice to warn us against terror cells that were on their way here, and the warnings proved to be true.  We provide Wadi Nis with doctors, medicines and water, we renovate their water lines, they work here, we visit there, the relations are excellent and there are friendships and a lot of mutual help.”

Revivi told Trin that although the American initiative looked like a clever way to bypass the relationship between the governments, he was very glad for it.  “President Obama is trying to solve this conflict by means of satellite footage,” he explained.  “If he were to go out into the field, see things up close, understand that we live here with our neighbors in coexistence and study the everyday life here, he would understand the complexity of the story better.”

The meeting lasted for more than an hour, in which Cindy-Noga Trin filled a notebook in small handwriting.  The feeling, Revivi said later, was of a painstaking and detailed cross-examination.  She did not miss a word, and wrote everything down.  When she asked him who was stopping the construction, Revivi raised an eyebrow, since it is the Americans, and mainly Trin’s boss George Mitchell, who are the address for this question, but he answered nonetheless.  Afterwards, Trin met with Boaz Columbus, principal of the high school in Karmei Tzur, and with Ora Yanai and Rahel Goshen, Efrat residents who belong to the founding generation of the settlement.  The last one to be interviewed was Eve Harrow, a relative of Ari Harrow, who deals with public relations.

This surprising visit to Efrat is supposed to be the first of a series.  The Americans are descending on [the settlements] in the field.  Mitchell is determined to understand what is happening on the ground, and to compare what is happening with what he is being told.  All this is taking place a few days before Prime Minister Netanyahu’s expected announcement of a construction freeze in the settlements—an announcement that will probably not satisfy the Palestinians.  Mitchell may be trying now to rectify the errors of the past and to check what is being done on the ground before he issues statements and demands that could complicate the situation of the sides.

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