What a left-wing Israeli group meant for harm in reporting on exploding Jewish settlement construction in Judea and Samaria, nationalist Israeli lawmakers hailed as further evidence of the people's deep dedication to their biblical heartland.
In a scathing report carried by most Israeli media outlets this week, Peace Now blasted the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for allowing construction of Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria (the so-called "West Bank") to increase by 180 percent over the last year.
Peace Now wants all Jews removed, by force if necessary, from the West Bank and the eastern half of Jerusalem. The group also demands Israel surrender the Golan Heights to Syria, and believes that by these concessions Israel will awaken in its Arab neighbors a love for a desire to coexist with what remains of the Jewish state.
Olmert has expressed his willingness to relinquish the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, which prompted Peace Now to issue its harsh criticism of the prime minister for permitting construction projects that run counter to those intentions.
National Religious Party lawmaker Uri Ariel told Israel National News that he is not worried about Peace Now forcing Olmert's hand in regards to settlement construction, and said that instead Israel's nationalist camp was taking great joy in the fact that so many more Jews are moving to the disputed territories.
"Demand for apartments in Judea and Samaria is strong, consistent, and growing," said Ariel. "Israel's future lies in the development of Israel's only remaining lands - the Samarian hills, the biblical birthplace of the Jewish Nation."
Also bringing cheer to Israel's nationalist camp was Peace Now chairman Yariv Oppenheimer's complaint that "the Jewish presence [in the West Bank] often extends up to the edges of Palestinian cities. Continuing this policy will make it impossible to separate between the Israelis and the Palestinians."
But Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni did not let the news bother her as she held a press conference with visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Jerusalem, insisting that she would "not allow the talks to be harmed by the settlements. The peace process need not be affected by the settlements. We are talking now about the borders of a Palestinian state."
For her part, Rice warned Israel against any actions that would hinder the US-driven vision of birthing a Palestinian Arab state on ancient Jewish lands in the coming months.