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Israeli Settlers And Palestinians In Occupied West Bank Grapple With U.S. Peace Plan

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Under President Trump's peace plan for the Middle East, all Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank would remain in place. That's the land that Palestinians seek for their own independent state. Reporter Naomi Zeveloff asked Palestinians and Israelis now living in the West Bank what this plan would mean for them.

NAOMI ZEVELOFF, BYLINE: Atara is a Palestinian village perched on a rocky West Bank hill. Mayor Naser El-Atari takes me on a tour of the area in the municipality's white minivan. We pass stone buildings, some of them hundreds of years old.

NASER EL-ATARI: (Speaking Arabic).

ZEVELOFF: Atari tells me the village is famous for its herbs, but he says over the years, the village has lost a lot of farmland to the Israeli settlement next door. It has a similar name - Ateret. The Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now says Israel seized some land owned privately by people in Atara for a security perimeter around the settlement. The group also says the settlement's housing was built on land that had been used by other Palestinian villages.

EL-ATARI: (Speaking Arabic).

ZEVELOFF: Atari takes me to a lookout point where you can see the settlement - a bunch of red-roofed houses. After Israelis began to move there in the 1980s, Atari says no one here believed the settlement would stay forever. But according to Trump's new peace plan, it's not going anywhere.

EL-ATARI: (Speaking Arabic).

ZEVELOFF: He says of Trump, a person who doesn't own something has no right to give it away as a gift. And he's not impressed by what the Palestinians would get. The White House calls it a state, but it would be in pieces surrounded by Israel.

EL-ATARI: (Speaking Arabic).

ZEVELOFF: He asks, where is this state he's offering? Atari, like most Palestinians, wants the settlements out of the way. They're on occupied territory. The U.N. Security Council has said they're illegal. But across the hill in Ateret, settlers feel a historic Jewish tie to the West Bank. I go to Simcha Shumacher's house to ask him about Trump's plan. He's a member of the town council, and he unrolls a large map on his living room table.

(SOUNDBITE OF PAPER FLAPPING)

SIMCHA SHUMACHER: So we're actually in the center of Israel.

ZEVELOFF: It includes Israel and the West Bank, but he calls all of it Israel.

SHUMACHER: If you take a map of Israel, we're, like, almost in the middle.

ZEVELOFF: He says Ateret was built at a strategic place between two Palestinian cities to prevent them from growing together, which he sees as a threat to Israel. He's happy the Trump plan would let them stay, but one thing makes him nervous. Under the plan, they would be an Israeli enclave surrounded by parts of the Palestinian state.

SHUMACHER: I think it's just shocking because, you know, you see where you live, and they say that no - you know, the Arabs will be all around you.

ZEVELOFF: After the plan was released, his council issued a message to Ateret residents over WhatsApp. Shumacher reads it to me.

SHUMACHER: (Speaking Hebrew).

So in one area, we're getting sovereignty in it. That's amazing.

ZEVELOFF: On the other hand, it continues, Ateret it will be an enclave in the so-called Palestinian state. His wife Ayelet Shumacher says she's even concerned that people in Ateret might choose to go somewhere else.

AYELET SHUMACHER: I'm guessing there are families who would move - many, even - who would move because it makes it scarier to live here.

ZEVELOFF: That would be something of an irony because the plan was supposed to pave the way for settlers to stay put. But whether the plan goes through or not, Israel is already talking about annexing these settlements soon.

For NPR News, I'm Naomi Zeveloff in the West Bank.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROBYN SONG, "SEND TO ROBIN IMMEDIATELY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.