Jewish settlers are the problem and remain so

BBC journalist Alan Johnston, kidnapped in Gaza in 2007, returns to the Palestinian territories for the first time since his release.

It’s not a pretty picture:

But in the West Bank signs of tension are never far away, if you know where to look.

High on the crest of a hill you could make out what seemed to be a caravan.

It was a tiny Israeli outpost. This is how so many settlements began.

First one, and then before long there might be three or four makeshift buildings up there. This is how – metre-by-metre – the settlers have consolidated their hold on the land Israel occupies.

Earlier in the day, up in one of the settlements, I had sat down in the autumn sunshine with David Ha’ivri.

He was a large man with a thick, dark beard, but at times he was almost softly spoken.

There was no mistaking though the depth of his conviction as he explained the connection he felt with the land around us.

“The hills,” he said, “were the heartland of ancient, biblical Israel.”

Here he walked in the footsteps of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, founding figures in the faith that filled his life.

David saw his presence there as part of his people’s near-miraculous redemption of the land that they lost 2,000 years ago.

And to be part of that destiny, he and his eight children had had to risk the threat of attack by armed Palestinians who have targeted settlers.

“The Arabs,” he said, “simply needed to accept the reality of Israel’s control.”