Oded Ravivi.
Oded Ravivi. “The way the Palestinian Authority is run, it’s hard for me to imagine how Jews could live under Palestinian rule.” Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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Oded Ravivi, 41, has led the Efrat regional council since November 2008. He is a member of the Likud Central Committee, an attorney and a lieutenant colonel in the reserves.

You failed, didn't you, in your fight against the building freeze in the West Bank?

I don't think we failed. We knew from the start that the decision to freeze construction for 10 months was irreversible. What we did gain during this period was that large segments of the public understood that there was no point in the Israeli government's unilateral decision, which caused suffering to the population of Judea and Samaria without any justification. Another thing we gained from the freeze is the fact that after many years, there is now some unity among the institutions and factions, which are all in the same boat.

Will the freeze end in September?

That's a tough question. It has been announced that it won't. But in the field it's impossible to continue a building freeze policy. There will be some version of a partial freeze.

And if it does continue, will the residents of Efrat wake up?

I don't think the people of Efrat are hibernating now. They are conducting a struggle in a form that is perhaps not typical of this area. They are conducting it through the media, by bringing in opinion shapers and influential people to explain why the freeze does not have to continue in Efrat.

A few months ago there was a dispute among settlers about whether it was correct to publicly oppose the "price tag" policy, in which settlers attack Palestinians to exact a toll for every outpost Israel demolishes. What is your position?

In general we must condemn all illegal activity, which should be treated with all gravity. I don't think it serves our interests. But you have to recognize the fact that the deterrent effect of violent activities is much stronger than that of legal means. I don't want to sound like I am encouraging illegal activity, but I am definitely saying that we have to examine how to create deterrence with democratic means.

After the disengagement from Gaza, there was talk of a "My Yesha" campaign, and some very nice signs were posted. Do you think this affected or changed anything among Israelis?

I was not party to the decision making at that time. Everyone realizes that this campaign did not have the desired effect. The leadership has changed since then, and many regional council heads understand that the ability to deal with the problem requires a genuine connection with the Israeli people, and bringing as many people as possible to Judea and Samaria who can see what it's all about and then make considered decisions.

The newspaper Makor Rishon recently featured a discussion about whether settlers could remain in the West Bank under a Palestinian government or in an enclave under Israel's control. What do you think about that?

Whoever chooses to serve in the army has no intention of living under Palestinian rule. By the way, many members of the neighboring population do not want to live under Palestinian or Israeli rule. We'll do everything to remain one country under Israeli sovereignty.

During the Olmert-Abu Mazen negotiations, there was talk that settlers could remain in the West Bank.

The way the Palestinian Authority is run, it's hard for me to imagine how Jews could live under Palestinian rule. Nevertheless, it was a nice surprise last week when they returned two Israelis who had entered PA territory. It seems delusional to think about living under Palestinian rule considering the government they have now.

So what's the solution?

The model we've started to adapt for ourselves in Efrat and Gush Etzion is of coexistence with the other side. It's a model that needs to be copied on a national level. It's clear to me that neighborly relations between communities is nothing like that between countries. The dispute is not territorial but about principles. We need to see how peace and quiet can be guaranteed, and then we'll live in a democratic country that promises to maintain a Jewish majority for the good of future generations.

You are a member of the Likud Central Committee. Half of the citizens of Efrat voted for the Likud. Do you see any signs of regret?

I see some regret. I don't think it's correct to run to one of the extremist parties. The main influence must come from the big parties. It's a political reality that no party won enough of a majority to give it power within a coalition. Ehud Barak enjoys veto power over everything, not only settlements. These are questions that should be disturbing the country: the power of the minority controlling the majority. I'm not sure it's democratic.

There are those who say that the settlers who belong to Likud also constitute a minority that's controlling a democracy.

The Likud is an open party. Whoever wants to be a member wants to wield influence. The right-wing majority won the last elections, but in practice the policy that's carried out is that of the Labor Party.

Do you think that in the next elections more than 50 percent of the people of Efrat will vote for Likud?

As far as I can see, yes. People understand that it's large institutions that have the power to effect change. I sincerely hope that a coalition will be formed that will more loyally express the voters' opinions.

One of the most prominent leaders of religious Zionism, former chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, died last week. In your opinion, who is qualified to take his place?

That's a difficult question. The religious Zionist public is quite varied, and Rabbi Eliyahu managed to unite many factions under his wing. A vacuum has been created. One doesn't always know how to point to a successor immediately afterwards; it takes a few years. We'll have to be strong and have patience.