Khirbet al-Tawil sits on the sides of a hill that descends into the Jordan Valley, between the Palestinian town of Aqraba and the Jewish settlement of Gitit. The village is accessed by a muddy road, which took us a long time to find. On the rocky terrain in between the fields, there were several buildings - either houses or shacks - next to animal pens and coops. When we entered the mosque, accompanied by two researchers from the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem and a researcher from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the residents were absorbed in lively conversation. It was noon, and they turned first to pray, kneeling on the wet rugs, their faces toward Mecca.
The stone ruins of the ancient, magnificent houses in Khirbet al-Tawil attest that Palestinians lived here for centuries. The villagers recall the stories of their ancestors who lived here, but Gitit is encroaching from northeast and Itamar is expanding from northwest; Nativ Hagdud, Yafit, Tomer and Patzael, the settlements of the valley and the surrounding slopes, are gradually choking off the Palestinians' agriculture in the valley.
But who can stop the Israeli settlements if Israel won't? Neither international pressure, hunger strikes, nor worse. Palestinian negotiators should try to win a freeze on new settlements in exchange for accepting the broad outlines of Israel's current territorial offer. They should do it now, before their future stake shrinks even more.
Hat tip to Deb Neal