Jewish settlers vow to hang tough in occupied land
By Allyn Fisher-Ilan
HAR BRACHA, West Bank (Reuters) - Being a Jewish settler in occupied territory is the only life Renana Cohen has known for most of her 25 years, and she couldn't imagine living anywhere else, including within Israel's borders.
It's not the breathtaking scenery from Har Bracha, or "Blessed Mountain," a West Bank hilltop settlement of 2,000, that attracts the mother of two, but more the mission of staking a claim to land Israeli rightists see as a biblical birthright.
"This is my place, where my soul feels best," said Cohen, her hair wrapped in a headscarf typical of those worn by devout Jewish women. "It's because I believe this is a part of Israel that we must live here, without a doubt."
Palestinians, facing a recent surge in attacks by settlers out to disrupt their olive harvest, say Jewish settlements, on territory Israel captured in a 1967 Middle East war, rob them of land they want for a state.
Some 300,000 Israelis live in the West Bank, alongside some 3 million Palestinians, in settlements which the World Court has branded as illegal.
Settlement expansion, along with Israel's insistence on keeping major enclaves in any future peace deal, have impeded U.S.-sponsored talks on Palestinian statehood and chances of meeting Washington's target of a framework accord this year.
Settler assaults on Palestinians harvesting olives this month have illustrated the difficulties Israel faces with defiant rightists who insist on staying in the West Bank with or without peace.
Human rights groups and Israeli organizations that monitor military and settler treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank say settlers are rarely prosecuted for violence. Continued...