Op-Ed: Why We Should Welcome Obama to Visit Shomron
In response to my posts calling for American President Barack Obama to visit the Jewish communities in Shomron, some readers have asked “Why?”And they highlight the ways that he is historically an antagonist to the land of Israel’s agenda. This information is not a surprise to me. I do not mistakenly think that Obama is a friend to Israel, nor pretend he is really concerned with our best interests.
However he is the executive representative
We in Judea and Samaria (called “the West Bank” by some) have come to the realization that our greatest enemy is ignorance. Ironically, while so many people worldwide are voicing opinions regarding the issues at hand in this land, very few people have actually visited here. Very few have their own personal experience to draw from, when formulating their opinions. They call our communities "settlements," but have never seen one. They have no idea what our residents are like, because they have never met a "settler.”
They speak in terms of “moving the settlers out of the West Bank,” but they have no perspective on the population size of our communities and the permanent investment in homes, schools, businesses, farms and so much more that exists here.
Normally, when I take international guests around on a day tour of Shomron, I need not "argue" our case. I prefer to just let them see for themselves. I like to call this day tour a "’Wow’ experience,” because the visitors just keep saying "Wow, I didn't know this” and “Wow, I didn't realize that.” I have found that letting people see it all for themselves is incredibly effective.
They call our communities "settlements," but have never seen one. They have no idea what our residents are like, because they have never met a "settler.”
The fact is that there are some 350,000 Jewish people who live in the areas east of the Green Line, aside from those who live in the eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem. The Jewish population in Judea and Samaria (not including Jerusalem) is 45 times more than the number of Jews who lived in Gush Katif. The disengagement from Gush Katif cost the State of Israel 2.5 billion dollars and now, some 8 years later, some of those displaced residents have still not been resettled in permanent homes. Do the math for argument’s sake - $112.5 billion dollars would be needed to carry out disengagement in this area.
Again, the point is to put all of these facts on the table for those who throw around ideas like a "Two State Solution,” in order to help bring that idea back down to the world of reality. One guest who visited with me in Shomron, a leader of JStreet and APN, told me at the end of the day that she still believes that we "settlers are the cause of the problem,”but that now, after seeing the region for herself, and absorbing the implications, she no longer believes that the “Two State Solution” is feasible. She blames us for ruining her dream of establishing a Palestinian state in “the West Bank,” but she understands that this plan is impractical and other concepts will need to be proposed.
It is important that those who bat around ideas for the future of this region meet with the Jewish residents here and learn for themselves that most Jews who live here have invested their lives in these mountains, are strongly motivated and plan to stay here forever. This is not about Hasbara and the intent to win over support from the other side. The issue here is to expose the facts on the ground. The Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are here to stay. Talk of moving them around is totally unrealistic. When people see and understand this, their narrative will naturally change.
So I do encourage not just Obama, but all people - Jews and gentiles, who are interested in Israel. Come to Shomron; see the reality behind the headlines that you read about in the news. Take back with you a personal account of what you have seen. I am sure that with firsthand information, your discussions on these issues will be much more meaningful and effective.