Entrenched in what they view as their Biblical heartland, the hardline Jewish settlers of Hebron look forward with delight to next week’s Israeli election.
Opinion polls forecast Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, already at odds with the world over Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, will easily win a third term in office, with coalition partners who could push him further to the right.
The pro-settler Bayit Yehudi, a natural ally of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, is forecast to be the third largest faction in parliament. Two Bayit Yehudi candidates - Hebron settlers - have a real chance of winning legislative seats.
“The feeling is good,” said Hebron settler Anat Cohen.
“It is clear that the people of Israel want a national government, a Jewish government that wants the land of Israel with Judea and Samaria,” she said, using the Biblical name for the West Bank.
Hebron, divided by a 1997 interim peace deal, is home to 200,000 Palestinians and 800 Jews, who live in a closely-guarded enclave and are among the most ideologically driven of the 500,000 settlers on land Palestinians want for a state.
Settlement projects on land Israel captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War are considered illegal by most world powers, which frequently criticise them as an obstacle to peace.
Settler Haim Bleicher, 30, said Israelis no longer believe there is a chance for peace with the Palestinians.
“There is a sobering-up from the illusion of peace agreements and there is more faith among the people, who believe more and are getting closer to the Torah, to the Bible,” said Bleicher, who has lived in Hebron all his life.’