- Israel - Israeli settlements - Israeli-Palestinian conflict - Palestinian Territories - tourism - West Bank
With the Israeli government under increasing pressure from Washington to end all settlement activity, the settler movement is changing tack; promoting the West Bank as a tourism destination for all Israelis.
And with the image of the West Bank as one of checkpoints, roadblocks and frequent violence between Israelis and Palestinians, the setters are now actively seeking support from Israelis who live inside the Green Line.
"We believe very strongly about personal contact and the ability of people to see us not via distorted media reports," says Moshe Asher, the general manager of Binyamin Council located in the West Bank.
"It's this relationship that will change the political perception of how they see us and help them to see that we're all on the same side."
On the day U.S. President Barack Obama delivered his speech to Muslim world, Asher and his council staff hosted a delegation from the Israeli Tourism Ministry at Psagot winery, located in the West Bank, on the outskirts of Ramallah.
The winery, owned by Yaacov and Na'ama Berg, has just opened its upscale visitors' centre. Over lunch, the government officials are told how the settlers want to win the hearts and minds of fellow Israelis.
"It's very important for us to reach the domestic tourism market, to show the place, its history, how it happened right here, and to connect the people to the Bible which is common language for all," Asher says.
Boutique wineries, goat farms, horseback riding and restaurants and cafes such as one in the illegal outpost of Havat Yair in the nothern West Bank are all being promoted as tourist destinations.
The settlers are wanting to attracts secular Israelis who'd normally steer well clear of entering the West Bank in the hope they can find support for their cause.
A quick straw poll one afternoon on a Tel Aviv beach revealed that it will be a difficult sell with a number of people telling FRANCE 24 that they would not be at all interested.- "I don't believe in the settlers," one young man told our camera. "We don't need the West Bank ...and I don't want to know what it is all about."
Israeli peace activists believe there is another reason for the campaign.
"They can change a little some facts on the ground in terms of bringing more tourists, more movement so that there's more Israeli presence, more security measures and so actually it's another kind of settling," says Hagit Ofran from Israel's Peace Now movement.
Back at Psagot winery which is now producing 70,000 bottles a year, any talk of an Israeli withdrawal is shunned by its owners who are determined to stay.
"For me, it would be the end of the world," Na'ama Berg told FRANCE 24. "It will be a terrible act and incredibly harsh, unjust and unfair because they're taking us out from a place where we belong."
It's a message destined to be repeated, to whoever will hear it, in the months ahead.