in Annapolis, Maryland, the United States government will host a conference
between Palestinian and Israeli leaders to launch peace talks on a permanent
agreement. A vital component of the peace proposals to be discussed involves
exchanges of territory that would allow Israel to keep its West Bank
"settlement blocs" while compensating Palestinians with land inside
community of Qira, like many others, cannot survive in a Palestinian state
divided by Israel's settlement blocs. The settlement blocs are built on
Palestinian agricultural land and water resources, and carve the West Bank into
disconnected Palestinian bantustans.
morning I see through my window the settlement of Ariel, lying atop the hill
adjacent to my village. I've never visited Ariel's beautiful homes and green
gardens, so different from our poor, parched community, because as a
Palestinian I am forbidden to enter Ariel, even though it sits on Palestinian
land in the West Bank.
when construction of Ariel began, I was a child. Yet I recall my frustration
and sorrow for the many Palestinian farmers who lost their lands to the Israeli
colony. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs, Ariel is one of the four fastest growing Israeli settlements. It
expanded from 179 acres and 5,300 residents in 1985 to 1732 acres and 16,414
inhabitants in 2005.  In contrast, my village, which is hundreds of years
old, has not grown because the Israeli government restricts the area and growth
of Palestinian communities.
located in the center of the Salfit District in the northern West Bank, 13
miles east from the Green Line, Israel�s pre-1967 border. Ariel is part of the
larger "Ariel settlement bloc" which consists of 26 other West Bank
settlements with nearly 40,000 settlers. 
deep into the heart of the West Bank, the Ariel settlement bloc separates the
northern West Bank from the rest of the West Bank. U.S. State Department
spokesman Richard Boucher warned against the construction of Israel's wall
around Ariel in June 2004, saying that it would make Palestinian life more
difficult and confiscate Palestinian property.3 Nonetheless,
hundreds of acres of Palestinian land were confiscated for that wall.
Ariel settlement bloc becomes part of Israel through the territorial exchanges
proposed by Israel and supported by the US, it would be disastrous for the
Salfit district's 70,000 residents. Ariel forms a physical barrier. We must
travel around the entire settlement and through Israeli checkpoints to reach
the town of Salfit, our district's "urban center." It typically took
me 90 minutes to drive from my village to Salfit when I worked there, even
though it is only four miles away.
settlers prevent Palestinians from harvesting their olive groves near the
colony. They attack Palestinians, sometimes under the Israeli army's
protection. They have even entered mosques and desecrated the Quran inside.
the Salfit district is located in the West Bank's most water-rich region, our
water supplies have been redirected to Israel and Ariel. According to the
Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem, Israeli settlers consume five times
more water than local Palestinians.  The nearby villages of Kifr al-Dik and
Bruqin are constantly without enough water for these reasons.
from the hilltop settlements and wastewater from Ariel's industrial zone
pollute our region. According to the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem,
80 factories from Ariel's Barkan industrial zone discharge 0.81 million cubic
meters of wastewater per year into nearby valleys.  All this wastewater and
the sewage have formed a river through the agricultural lands of the villages
of Kifr al-Dik and Bruqin. These poisonous streams have led to the death and
ruin of trees and crops located in their immediate vicinity.
on our movement, settler attacks, the diversion of our water and the pollution
of our land, all caused by the Ariel settlement bloc, are destroying Salfit's
economy, and dramatically restricting our rights. Ariel is like a bone in our
throat that is choking us.
hope to reach a peace agreement with Israel, and we are cautiously optimistic
about the Annapolis, Maryland, conference. But Palestinians are most concerned
with getting back their stolen lands. Incorporating settlement blocs like Ariel
into Israel is not a viable solution. Ordinary Palestinians will not be able to
cope unless their rights are restored.
settlements and other infrastructure in the West Bank
Israeli tenders to expand the Ariel settlement bloc
Again Calls Israeli Security Fence Project a "Problem"
 The gap in
water consumption between Palestinians and Israelis
 Hazardous Waste Management
Fareed Taamallah is a peace activist and journalist who lives in the
West Bank village of Qira in the Salfit district.