NEWS & FEATURE: A struggle rooted in land

A West Bank struggle rooted in land

From his hilltop farm, Daoud Nassar can see the sun rise over the Jordan Valley and set in the Mediterranean, an arc that spans the territorial breadth of his people’s conflict with Israel.

He also can see the neighbors whose rival claim has drawn the idyllic 100-acre plot deeply into that fight.

The only large Palestinian property to occupy high ground in this part of the West Bank, it is ringed by expanding Jewish settlements and coveted by the one perched on the nearest hill, 800 yards away.

For nearly a generation, Nassar and his family have stood their ground, unarmed, against pistol-toting settlers who have barricaded the farm’s dirt lanes, uprooted its olive groves, tried to bulldoze their own roads and disabled a tractor and a rooftop water tank.

The family has rebuffed anonymous Jewish callers offering blank checks for the property, and spent $145,000 in a marathon legal battle to keep the land that Nassar’s grandfather, a Christian from Lebanon, bought in 1916 when it was part of the Ottoman Empire. For more than 90 years, Nassars have worked the land, growing almonds, figs, grapes, olives, pears and pomegranates.

The feuding over these stark hills, ridges and valleys south and east of Bethlehem, a 27-square-mile region that includes the Nassar farm, is emblematic of the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict — a struggle rooted in land. [complete article]

Mideast talks already tangled a month after Annapolis summit

US and Egyptian officials have criticized Israel’s move to renew building in Har Homa so soon after Annapolis, indicating that it undermines trust between the parties.

Mr. Olmert’s government has gone on the defensive about the decision. On the one hand, it says that the decision to build was made by a lower-ranking official in the Housing Ministry, which issued the tender without Olmert’s knowledge. On the other, it says that it has no intention of forfeiting the land of Har Homa to the Palestinians.

“In our view, this is not part of the problem with the Palestinians, we are building in the neighborhoods inside Jerusalem, we are not building new settlements,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said at a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek. “The Palestinians are far from implementing phase one of the road map, which calls for rooting out the terror infrastructure.”

Palestinian officials say that the building in Har Homa is going to be at the top of the agenda for Thursday’s meeting between Olmert and Abbas. Palestinians have demanded a cessation to all settlement building as a requisite step toward rebuilding expectations for peace. [complete article]

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