My Turn: My Land for Peace With the Palestinians

Sometimes you can live next to people for years and not know exactly what they think. I gave an interview to a local paper in my town recently in which I said that in exchange for real peace with the Palestinians, Israel should give up the West Bank and dismantle its settlements. When the interview appeared, my neighbor stopped me on the street to complain. "How could you say such a thing?" he wanted to know. "This is a betrayal." It stands to reason that he would be surprised. After all, he and I are both residents of Maale Adumim in the West Bank—and Maale Adumim is a Jewish settlement.

But I don't consider myself a settler. In my eyes, settlers are political extremists who believe land is more important than peace. They're zealots who move to the West Bank to fulfill God's promise to Abraham—to make Israel the land of his children alone. Taken to its logical conclusion, of course, this line of thinking will forever prevent Palestinians from having their own state. I encountered a good many people who thought this way when I worked for the mayor of Jerusalem between 1984 and 1994 as his adviser on Arab affairs. Years later I co-wrote a book about how, under Israeli rule, Jerusalem's Palestinian communities were mistreated and made to move beyond the city boundaries into the West Bank.

For me, Maale Adumim has little political significance. My wife and I moved here 25 years ago because it's a good place to live; like thousands of other Israelis, we were not motivated by history or ideology. With financial incentives from the government, we managed to buy a single-family home with a backyard where we plant our flowers. The schools are good (though my children have since grown and moved away), and there's a coziness that I like. Maale Adumim is the largest settlement in the West Bank, but it has just 40,000 residents. And it's a 15-minute drive from Jerusalem, where I now work as a tour guide.

I like my home in the West Bank. But I won't stand in the way of reconciliation. I don't believe Israelis and Palestinians will reach an agreement any time soon. But if they do, I will celebrate. And if it calls for Maale Adumim to be evacuated, I'll quietly pack my belongings and say goodbye to the beautiful hills of Judea and farewell to my neighbor. He can fight for this land. I prefer peace.