Settler head says peace process has failed

An Israeli settler leader told a San Francisco audience that "Jews suffer from a battered-wife syndrome" in dealing with Palestinians.

Like a woman whose husband beats her, some Jews who try to appease Palestinians think terrorism is punishment for Jewish sins, said Yechiel Leiter, who is executive director of the foreign desk of YESHA, the body of elected mayors and community leaders of the nearly 150,000 Jewish residents of the territories.

"Today the colossal sin is that we took their land, and if we give it back, we'll be accepted, we'll be tolerated," Leiter told an audience at the Jewish Community Rela-tions Council's San Francisco office Monday.

But appeasement has worsened Israel's national security, said Leiter. In the 2-1/2 years since the Israeli-Palestinian peace accords, 213 Jews have been killed by Arab terrorists — more than in the 12 years preceding the agreement.

More Jews were killed by Arab terrorism from 1993 through 1996 than in any period since the 1967 Six Day War, he said. After only three months, 1996 is already the second bloodiest of those years, he added.

In the wake of the recent spate of four terrorist bombings in Israel, right-wing Israelis feel the peace process with the Palestinians has in fact failed, he said.

"I wish to God I was wrong over these last couple of years" he said of his criticism of the peace process. "But what has happened is proof that we were right."

Recent efforts at peace have only increased terrorism instead of reducing it, and terrorists who "commit the most heinous crimes don't have to answer," said Leiter.

Leiter lives with his wife and five children in the community of Eli, in the northern West Bank which the settler calls by its biblical name, Samaria.

While he opposes the current peace process, Leiter said he and other right-wing Israelis do not oppose peace.

Yet, "I am representative of those who you have been told repeatedly in the media are opposed to peace."

The current debate between Israel's left and right wings over the peace process is over how to achieve peace, not over whether peace is worthwhile, he added.

Leiter said he and other right-wing Israelis want Israel to back off the current peace track and reclaim some 9,000 open-housing units that the government froze for the peace process. The housing would go to Jewish immigrants from Ethiopia and Russia now living in trailer parks inside the pre-1967 Israeli borders.

Leiter also called for Israel to regain its right to take pre-emptive action against terrorists working out of Palestinian areas, and to pursue terrorists unhindered even when the terrorists cross into territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority police.

Moreover, the militant Hamas infrastructure works openly within the Palestinian-run territories, indoctrinating suicide bombers in a matter of months, he said.

Warning against the creation of a Palestinian state within the West Bank and Gaza, Leiter said Palestinian military control must not be allowed to expand into areas currently run by the Palestinian civilian authority and Israeli army.

But Leiter doubts Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres will soon be reversing current Israeli policy.

"I don't know too many adults who ever say they made a mistake," Leiter said. "I certainly don't know too many politicians — left, right, center — who ever said they made a mistake, certainly 2-1/2 months before an election."