Donald MacIntyre
The Independent (Analysis)
September 3, 2010 - 12:00am

Yaniv Mor, 30-year-old father of a one-month-old baby girl, and a settler was blunt: "We don't care about Washington. Nothing will come out of it, like always. This is a war of religions – we want everything, they want everything. There is no way there will ever be agreement. That is the reality."

Unsurprisingly, anger over the nearby killing by Hamas gunmen of four settlers on the eve of the Washington summit hangs heavily over this four-decade old Jewish West Bank settlement bordering Hebron. In a grocer's shop one young man wearing a wollen kippa leafed through a copy of Maariv newspaper with a spread of pictures of the children orphaned by the attack and would only exclaim: "Is this peace? I don't want to speak about this."

With a senior Israeli general warning of other possible attacks after the killings and a second shooting on Tuesday which wounded two other settlers, the main evidence of tightened security on Route 60 yesterday, scene of the fatal shootings, was a temporary checkpoint just north of Hebron where troops were vetting cars heading south.

Among a random sample among the 6,000 Kiryat Arba residents, a few directly linked what they saw as the futility of the talks with Tuesday's deaths. Rut Batra, 24, declared: "After what happened, Washington seems unfair. We want peace but they don't want peace. I don't want to feel hate in my heart but when seven children are left without a mother... If a Jew kills an Arab the whole world goes against him but if an Arab kills a Jew it is good for them and the world lives with it as well."

But in Kiryat Arba there is another reason for regarding the negotiating effort now underway with deep disdain. Deep inside the West Bank, Kiryat Arba is one of the settlements – illegal in international law – that would have to be uprooted if the talks were to produce an end of the 43-year-old occupation. According to Yudit Zarkin, 42, daughter of holocaust survivors, who knew two of the victims, both, like her Russian in origin, this would not stop here. "If they tell us to leave our homes, then one day they will tell us to get out of Tel Aviv," she insisted.

Two of the older residents were not quite so adamant yesterday. Asaf Frank, 66, who came to Kiryat Arba after hearing in 1991 about the settlement in his Zionist underground organisation in Moscow, did not think there would be any concrete result of the Washington talks but added: "I hope there will be peace in the end, but this is no more than stage." Would Mr Frank, who had served as a military doctor with Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s, ever accept a division of the land in which he would have to leave Kiryat Arba? "I wouldn't agree with it. I would object to it, but if the government told me to, I would have to do it," he said. "But of this I am sure, if the Jews cannot pray in the Tomb of the Patriarchs [in Hebron] then there can't be peace."

Closing up the settlement's lottery kiosk for the day, Menashe Kamm, 75, was equally sceptical about Washington. "I don't think there will be anything coming out of this", he said. "I don't believe they want to make peace with the Jews, they want to take everything – it's in the Koran – from Pakistan to Morocco." But he too would leave if he was ordered to. "I am a citizen of Israel and I have to accept what the government is doing even if I think it is wrong."

Palestinian negotiator's charm offensive

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has told the Israeli public in a $250,000 (£162,000) US-funded advertising campaign that he knows "we have disappointed you" by failing to bring peace in the past.

The apparent self-criticism comes in a series of video clips in a concerted effort to persuade Israelis that it is a true "partner" for peace talks. The campaign has triggered much online comment — some adverse — by Israelis and Palestinians.

In his clip, Mr Erekat says: "I know we have disappointed you. I know we have been unable to deliver peace for the last 19 years... I know that peace is doable. I know that we can make it... we need you all to join us in becoming a partner in saving lives of Israelis and Palestinians. I am your partner. Are you mine?"

Diana Buttu, a former member of the Palestinian negotiating team, said she thought the approach was "humiliating". "The message... treats Israel and the Palestinians as equal partners, so that somehow the oppressed are having to apologise to the oppressor."


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