An influential Jewish community leader and Democratic State Assemblyman from New York is currently heading a mission of about 50 Americans through the West Bank and East Jerusalem to promote home purchases in the area and to protest U.S. President Barack Obama's Middle East policy.
"Our goal is to send a clear message to Washington and President Obama that Jews will continue to live in Judea and Samaria and the ultimate commitment American Jews can make is to actually come and buy property in these areas as this will ensure these communities" security and growth," said Dov Hikind, 59, who has been representing Brooklyn's 48th district since 1983.
"People buy properties in different places, and I can't think of any reason why people dedicated to the land of Israel shouldn't own something here, whether they will use it or use it as an opportunity for young families to live in that particular home," the politician told Haaretz yesterday in Elon Moreh, an Israeli settlement in the Samarian Hills.
While no one has committed to a purchase yet, the visitors have voiced serious interest, according to Hikind. He himself "absolutely" intendes to buy a home in Nof Zion, a new Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem. The finale of Hikind's four-day mission is a cornerstone laying in Nof Zion Wednesday afternoon.
"When there will be a real peace process, the fact that Jews live in certain areas will be dealt with at the negotiating table," Hikind said when asked whether Jews buying homes in areas designated for a future Palestinian state could be an obstacle to peace. 'I'm for peace," Hikind continued. "The issue is: Can there be natural expansion, can families grow, are they allowed to build toilets?"
Hikind dismisses the argument that American buyers can hardly be called natural expansion. "We're Jews and we care. I've always wanted to own something in Israel; it's been a dream of mine and of many Jews," he said. "For now, if a Jews wants to buy something in the Land of Israel there shouldn't be anything that says you can't buy in a particular area because Jews should not live there because that area has to be segregated."
One of the few Democrats who opposed Obama even before he was elected, Hikind says the U.S. president's policy of demanding a total settlement freeze caused the current stalemate in regional peace talks.
"President Obama actually has put a stop to whatever peace process existed, to any kind of dialogue between the Palestinian Authority and the prime minister of Israel, because Mahmoud Abbas's new position is what Obama said: there can be absolutely no construction, period," Hikind said. While Israel was willing to resume talks, Palestinians refuse to return to the negotiating table before Israel agrees to a complete freeze, he added. "They're just taking the position the president had, which is ridiculous and outrageous."