The gravel-paved road to the outpost is lined with olive trees and vineyards.
"Some of the trees and vines are saplings planted over the past couple years. Some, as you can see, are older," says 30-year-old Shibi Drori, an agronomist now working towards his doctorate in molecular biology at the Hebrew University, as he leads me up the hill.
The tree-lined path up the hill off Route 60 just across from the road to Shiloh and Shvut Rahel, leads to the outpost of Givat Harel.
Entering into the hilltop community of 12 families, I am immediately struck by its ordered tranquility. Each spruced up mobile home is lined with lawns and children's toys and swing-sets overlooking the breathtaking view of the surrounding hills of Binyamin.
Shibi, his wife Shira, and their children were among the four original families who moved to Givat Harel five years ago from their home in Shiloh. Sitting in the airy, immaculate living room of their home (which Shira, an architect, designed), Shibi explains the difference between outposts and traditional settlements.
"In our view, a town shouldn't simply be a bedroom community – a place people live in but work outside of. For us, working the land is key. I have 30 dunams of olive trees and five dunams of vineyards. Most of the families here are involved in agriculture in one form or another."
So far, the Droris are the only family to have traded in their mobile home for a regular one. "Two other families are beginning construction. The others are saving their money and plan to build when they can make the payments," Shira says.
At the end of the visit Shibi shows me his young vineyard. "These vines are only a year old," he says as he affectionately fingers the young chardonnay grapes. "You can't use such young grapes. You need to wait for three years before the vines are mature enough to yield wine producing grapes."
While Shibi will have the option of selling his grapes to the Barkan winery in Gush Etzion, he intends to go it alone. "I hope to buy some wine presses and have a boutique winery of my own when the grapes are ready," he says.
Over the Shiloh valley past Shvut Rahel, I pass into Adei Ad outpost. The olive groves, that belong to the 16 families who moved here since 1999, dot the hillsides. Goats wander between the mobile homes chewing weeds and wildflowers as they go.
Sitting in his crowded office – a small room in an antiquated mobile home decorated with pictures of spanking clean mobile homes and bulldozers torn from last year's calendar – Rabbi Boaz Melet, a toothy 35-year-old, sporting a disheveled beard and a wide crocheted kippa speaks of his passion.
"Our yeshiva here is one of the only yeshivas that combines agriculture with Torah study. We believe, like Maimonides, that it isn't enough for someone to devote himself to Torah study and not to work. And for us, the best and most appropriate work for believing Jews is agriculture, because it is the one profession where you never lose sight of your subservience to God."
I went to the outposts on Tuesday morning to get a sense of the type of communities that the Quartet's road map dictates must be destroyed. But upon returning to Jerusalem, it occurred to me that what these communities are like is beside the point.
What does it matter whether the outposts, which, all told, are home to no more than 200 families, are pretty or dingy? What does it matter if they're populated by ideologues or pragmatists or dreamers? What does it matter if their residents live in mobile homes or spacious villas? What does it even matter if they were built in accordance with zoning laws or in breach of them? (Both Givat Harel and Adei Ad are in fact fully authorized communities.)
Because the fact of the matter is that settlements are not an "obstacle to peace." If the Palestinians are committed to peaceful coexistence with Israel, why should they demand that their nascent state be Judenrein? Why should it matter to the Palestinians if overlooking their villages is a man named Shibi Drori who patiently tends to his vineyard or a man named Rabbi Melet who teaches religious Jews to farm and raises goats?
On Tuesday, The International Herald Tribune provided the answer to this question. It did so by publishing the results of a Pew Global Attitudes Project opinion poll taken last month of 15,000 citizens of eight Arab and Muslim countries Kuwait, Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan, Indonesia, Lebanon, Nigeria and Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. These results show what the real obstacle to peace is.
Eighty percent of Palestinians agreed with the statement: "The rights and needs of the Palestinian people cannot be taken care of as long as the State of Israel exists." Ninety percent of Moroccans, 85% of Jordanians and 72% of Kuwaitis also agreed with the statement, as did solid majorities in Lebanon, Pakistan and Indonesia.
As well, the three most trusted world leaders for these Arab and Muslim societies are Osama bin Laden, Yasser Arafat and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. Finally, 80% of Jordanians and 90% of Palestinians expressed deep hatred not simply for US policy but for Americans as people. At the same time, 99% of Jordanians and 98% of Palestinians claim to have an unfavorable view of the US as do a majority of those questioned in the other countries polled.
Former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright chaired the poll. Albright called the results, "very disheartening, and very dangerous, frankly."
Indeed. How can peace possibly be achieved between Israel and its neighbors when our neighbors believe that justice will be served only by destroying Israel? How can the US hope to broker a deal when the Arab and Muslim world hates the US and the American people?
Also on Tuesday, US President George W. Bush attended a summit of regional leaders to which Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was not invited. Israel was banned from this US-sponsored forum in Sharm e-Sheikh because the other guests, particularly the popular potentate of Saudi Arabia, refused to sit in the same room as Sharon.
After tolerating this Arab discrimination of their Jewish neighbor, US officials saw their efforts to get their Arab friends to agree to normalize relations with Israel meet with abject failure. Then, too, Bush and his aides stood by as their host, Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, refused their request to reinstate his ambassador to Israel.
And yet, apparently unmoved by Arab intransigence, at the end of the meeting Bush announced his determination to see Israelis expelled from their homes to remove obstacles to peace. At Aqaba on Wednesday, Bush reiterated, "the issue of settlements must be addressed for peace to be achieved."
In the wake of Wednesday's glittering summit at Aqaba, the world is abuzz with notions of peace after PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas stood before the cameras and repeated some of the pledges made by Yasser Arafat to prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1993. Although unlike Arafat, Abbas refused to say he would dismantle terrorist organizations or collect illegal weapons, his promise to join the international war on terrorism and end anti-Semitic Palestinian incitement sufficed to impress all concerned.
In exchange for Arafat's promises in 1993 – regurgitated in 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998, Israel gave Arafat land, allowed him to import his legions from the Palestine Liberation Army, and set up a terrorist enclave in the heart of Israel armed by Israel and trained by the CIA. Arafat pocketed Israel's concessions and went to war.
Today, Abbas, who offered less, is rewarded by Sharon's commitment to Palestinian statehood and his promise to immediately begin expelling Jews from outpost communities.
is no doubt that President Bush means well in his efforts. His genuine hope for peace in the Middle East literally dripped from every word he uttered on Wednesday. And yet, like all his predecessors, he is doomed to fail in his mission because, like them, he is basing his policy on a lie.
That lie – that Israel has done something to warrant Arab rejectionism and aggression is necessary if one wishes to continue to truck with Arab autocracies whose subjects continue to ascribe to virulent hatred of everything the US stands for including its friendship with the Jewish state.
For the sake of the peace process, it is much easier to find a Jewish scapegoat on which to pin the blame for Arab and Muslim rejection of Israel. And so the settlements in the long term and the outposts in the immediate term are singled out. It is far easier to demonize agronomists and rabbis than deal with the single-minded hatred of the Arab world.
And so, in the aftermath of Aqaba, we again catch a whiff of the sweet ambrosia of duplicitous peace processes. The road map is a lie, of course. Outposts are its red herring. But no matter. Men like Shibi Drori and Boaz Melet will soon regale us with their televised protests at being evacuated from their homes. The press will portray them as crazies, alienated from right-thinking Israelis.
Arab leaders will say that these expulsions are insufficient and they cannot possibly move forward on fighting terrorism or recognizing Israel given Israel's intransigence. The US will continue to update its terror alerts daily, Israelis will continue to be butchered.
But the peace process will go on.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.