Mrs. Elder and I were treated to a really interesting taxi driver, one of the very few Israeli cab drivers who willingly drives to the settlements on the "wrong" side of the separation fence.
Like most taxi drivers, Avinoam happily comments freely on everything. He made a couple of very simple and cogent points.
Here is a picture of an Arab village, one of many that dot the highway:
Ckick on it to see how beautiful some of the houses are, really more mansions. Indeed, assuming my driver was correct, this enormous and gorgeous building is a single-family house:We saw dozens of these beautiful, huge mansions - and that was just what was visible from the highway.
These villages and towns were interspersed among many Jewish villages and towns, the type that the world media and politicians are fixated on as being "obstacles to peace."
After seeing many similar sights, it is very difficult to believe that the Jewish settlements are hurting the Arab economy one iota. (Avinoam was a bit more blunt, and colorful, in his descriptions.)
Some of the Jewish towns are quite attractive as well. We briefly visited Ariel, which is a simply beautiful community with an impressive recreation center (partially funded by Christian Zionists.) None of them have houses that approach the opulence of the Arab mansions we could see, but they do have impressive infrastructures, many with beautiful schools and playgrounds.
There is one glaring difference between the Jewish communities and the Arab communities, though. The Arab communities are quite open, while most of the settlements are fenced in with serious security in place. (h/t Batya for the clarification, Shiloh does not have a fence.)
If the existence of Jews in Samaria are such a danger to the Arabs, then why aren't the Arab communities fenced in to protect them from the Jews rather than vice versa?