Heat goes out of settlers' protest challenge withers on vine

Magen Dan is a summer camp that thinks it's a settlement. You won't find it on a map of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, but it is about half a mile down the Samarian foothills from Elkana, a prosperous settler township of high walls and designer villas overlooking Tel Aviv. From the community, founded 18 years ago, the bread-winners of 1,000 Jewish families commute to their careers.

If the right-wing nationalists who established Magen Dan this week were trying to provoke a trial of strength with the government, which has barred settlement expansion for the duration of the peace negotiations with the Palestinians, they must be sadly disappointed. August, with hundreds of thousands of Israelis holidaying abroad, is the cruellest month for protest.

The Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, has instructed his security services to let the illegal settlers "wither on the vine". They seem to be doing just that.

About 400 latter-day pioneers pitched their tents on Tuesday night. By Wednesday, they were down to 200. A day later, there were barely 40 during working hours, most of them children under 15. Last night only 100 had ordered the Sabbath-eve dinner offered by a local caterer.

It was not for want of trying. The settlers lugged half a dozen black Bedouin-style marquees on to the rocky hillside, with its stunted trees.

Two generators supply electricity. Elkana's municipal fire- engine shakes and stumbles up and down a rutted track to refill two water tanks hauled in on the back of a tender.

There are plastic lavatory cabins, one for men, one for women. Child optimists have planted saplings around the tinder-dry site. Young men are building two rudimentary "houses" of breeze blocks and cement, carried on their backs for the last 100 yards.

A jeep-load of soldiers, the only token of official attention, now stop vehicles from approaching any closer.

Magen Dan means "Shield of Dan", the official name for Greater Tel Aviv. The settler tents are labelled with the names of its towns and suburbs. Israeli flags flutter everywhere and stickers proclaim: "Only the people will decide.''

"Our main point," explained Rabbi Pinhas Hayman, "is to show that our struggle is over the entire Land of Israel. Standing here, you can see Tel Aviv, you can see Raanana, where I live with my wife and six children. If the Palestinians had artillery here, they could hit my house."

Maybe, but what would Magen Dan add to Israel's security? Elkana is already there. Mr Rabin has no intention of letting the Palestinians introduce big guns to the West Bank.

Nissan Slomiansky, Elkana's council head, is quick to answer. "What we don't settle," he said, "they'll give back to Yasser Arafat."

Mr Slomiansky, who has a clipped military moustache and wears a blue baseball cap, is still hopeful. "If they don't evacuate us in another week, we'll know we're here to stay. Magen Dan will become a new neighbourhood of Elkana. It's within our municipal borders. We'll put in development plans."

Everything, he knows, hinges on the support they can muster from Greater Tel Aviv, 600ft below. But will more settlers volunteer for the West Bank, now that its fate is on the block? The signs are not encouraging.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
News
i100
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: The Job:TEACHERS REQUIREDWe are...

Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are currently...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£60 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Special Needs Teaching Assistant ...

Year 4 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education is urgently recruiting...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?