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Last Updated: Friday, 31 March 2006, 13:54 GMT 14:54 UK
Kadima victory concerns settlers
By Martin Patience
BBC News website, Ariel

The Ariel settlement in the West Bank
Israel says Ariel settlement will not be dismantled
The settlement of Ariel looks like many towns in Israel. In Ariel's centre, there is a book shop, a pharmacy and a small supermarket.

In the morning sun, the young and old drink coffee and eat bagels from a number of the small, cheap cafes with tables and chairs set outside.

But Ariel is not in Israel.

Ariel is a Jewish settlement located in the heart of the West Bank - considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

It is in the Jewish settlements, such as Ariel, in the rolling and rocky hills of the West Bank, that the Israeli election really mattered.

The Kadima party, which won the Israeli election, has pledged to draw the final borders of Israel by 2010 by withdrawing from most of the West Bank without consulting the Palestinians.

If this happens, then the government will have to decide on what settlements to keep and which ones to evacuate.

Mistrust

Israel's acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is likely to be confirmed in the post once a coalition deal has been done, has said that Israel will keep the large settlement blocs, particularly those close to Jerusalem, and evacuate many of the smaller settlements.

We are worried because of what they did in Gush Katif - they took them out of the settlements and threw them to the dogs
Dror Ivgi, Ariel resident

As one of the largest settlements, the people of Ariel have been told they will not be asked to leave.

But despite assurances from Mr Olmert - he even visited the settlement ahead of the Israeli election - many of Ariel's 18,000 residents are not convinced.

Sitting at the Frozen Yoghurt shop in Ariel's centre, Dror Ivgi says that many of the residents in the settlement resent Kadima's plans.

"We are worried because of what they did in Gush Katif," says the 17-year-old, referring to Israel's withdrawal of all the Jewish settlements in Gaza last summer.

"They took them out of the settlements and then threw them to the dogs. They are now living in caravans."

A few minutes later, Mr Ivgi is joined by the local Likud councillor Moti Lanzeno, who has just been to the pet shop to buy some fish food.

"Kadima wants to force many people out of the West Bank," he says.

"Even though Olmert told us we would be okay, I don't believe him. He is lying."

Legacy

Some of the mistrust of Mr Olmert's assurances stems from his predecessor, Ariel Sharon, who is lying in a coma in a Jerusalem hospital after suffering a massive stroke in January.

Famously, Mr Sharon, originally a champion of the settlers, visited the Nitzarim settlement in Gaza in 2002 and said that it was as important to Israel as the city of Tel Aviv.

Mr Sharon evacuated the settlement last summer in what the settlers viewed as treachery.

Bookshop owner Avigdor Shachan
Avigdor Shachan says removing settlements will not bring peace

Avigdor Shachan, 65, dismisses the notion that giving Palestinians more land and the possibility of a future Palestinian state will lead to peace.

"We are caught in a trap," says the bookstore manager, standing close to the shop till. "As far as the Arabs are concerned we shouldn't exist anywhere in the Middle East. They all still want to see us in the sea."

But a few people in Ariel agree with Kadima's idea that withdrawals in the West Bank must continue.

"We can't force the Palestinians to live under an Israeli occupation for the sake of the settlers," says Tamer Biro, 24, a business student at the Judea and Samaria College in Ariel.

He admits that not many of his fellow students are likely to agree.

But on the road up to the college stands a large advertising hoarding promoting the sale of luxury apartments yet to be built in the settlement.

While many of Ariel's population are unsure about the future, the property developers are still building.

The place may have a future yet.


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