High atop a rocky hill in the occupied West Bank, Israeli settlers exhilarated by a resounding right-wing election triumph surveyed a landscape dotted with Palestinian villages, scouting new spots to put down roots.
The Nov. 1 ballot saw Religious Zionism, a hard-line settler party, soar to third place in parliament, positioning it as a potential powerful partner in Benjamin Netanyahu’s likely coalition. Negotiations started on Sunday and could take weeks.
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But among ideological settlers who see themselves as pioneers redeeming the Biblical heartland promised by God, hopes are already high for budgets, construction and infrastructure to keep their enterprise thriving.
“Our expectations are great,” said Daniella Weiss, a veteran settler who led the tiny scouting mission. “This government is better for the Jews than it is for the Arabs. That’s the name of the game.”
Weiss described the election results as a revolution. “As a person heading a settlement movement, it’s a victory,” she said. “I have no doubt there will be an acceleration in the development of the settlements.”
Most world powers deem settlements built in the territory Israel seized in the 1967 war as illegal under international law and their expansion as an obstacle to peace, since they eat away at land the Palestinians claim for a future state.
With peace talks establishing for such state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem dormant since 2014, and with no sign of their revival, Netanyahu’s likely government has simply darkened an already bleak Palestinian view, Reuters reported.
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“There will be an increase in settlement activity and that will close the door for any political solution,” said Wasel Abu Youssef of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
Israel disputes the illegality of the settlements and cites Biblical and historical ties to the West Bank, which it calls by its Biblical name – Judea and Samaria.
More than 450,000 people, or less than 5% of Israel’s population, are Jewish settlers in the West Bank, home to about 3 million Palestinians who exercise limited self-rule there.
Settlers driven ideologically to the smaller enclaves, deep in the territory, are a minority of the settler population. But they are nonetheless a powerful political force, in Netanyahu’s Likud party too.
At the Bet El religious seminary, where Gordon works as development director, the male students broke out in song and dance on election night, when the results came through.
About 80% of Bet El’s votes went to Religious Zionism, data from the Knesset’s election committee showed, and almost 10% to Netanyahu’s Likud.