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The visit with the Ben-Saadons Monday was the most visceral moment in a tour of the West Bank organized by the Institute for National Security Studies, a think tank holding its annual conference in Tel Aviv this week.Our guide was Danny Tirza, a retired army colonel who for years was the chief mapmaker for Israeli negotiators, and who plotted the path of the separation wall that divides Israeli and Palestinian areas around Jerusalem. The eight-hour tour offered a brief dose of ground truth about problems that have gone unresolved since Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 War.According to a Haaretz investigation last year, more than 380,000 settlers now live in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem), over 40 percent of them outside major blocs. Even a two-state advocate like Avi Gabbay, the leader of the opposition Labor Party, told me that "evacuation [of settlers] back to Israel is something that Israeli society cannot bear". Our tour stopped at Ariel, one of the larger settlements. It's called a "camp," but it's actually a cluster of grim-looking apartment buildings whose residents are descendants of Palestinians who fled Israel after the 1948 War.
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