Peace Now director-general Yariv Oppenheimer is usually busy monitoring or condemning Israel's expanding West Bank settlements, but for the last two weeks he found himself on the other side of the fence – literally.
Oppenheimer was called up to mandatory reserve duty, and was ironically stationed at a West Bank outpost in the northern Shomron region.
"He's welcome to come and live here in one of the communities," settler leader Gershon Mesika said jokingly after learning about the leftwing leader's presence.
Despite his vocal opposition to the settlements, Oppenheimer says that from the moment he got his placement orders about month and a half ago he had no doubt he would show up for service. At the beginning of the week, he arrived at the Mavo Shomron settlement.
Reserve duty in the West Bank poses a problem for Oppenheimer, whose day to day work involves monitoring settlements and petitioning Israeli courts to freeze outpost's construction or even rule in favor of demolitions.
"It's my civilian duty. I want to believe that when the day comes that the order is not to guard settlements, but to vacate settlements, then my friends on the right would do the same," he wrote on his Facebook page.
In the past, because of his professional left wing activities, the army attempted to avoid a scandal and offered Oppenheimer less combat roles for his reserve duty, but this time he refused, preferring to serve with his infantry corps company.
Though not the first time he is stationed in the West Bank, it is the first time he was put on active patrol duty within a settlement he and his comrades are charged with protecting – and the local settlers have taken notice.
"All the time locals come up and ask him questions," said Roei, a fellow reserve soldier serving with Oppenheimer.
"They talk about their life and try to convince him to come and live here. Despite the ideological gap, the dialogue seems to be conducted in a pleasant atmosphere," the reservist recalled.
Another recalled a funny incident in which a settler couple was approached by the force only to be shocked to discover it was Oppenheimer who was approaching them in IDF uniform.
"The whole situation was absurd," he recalled. "They spoke for a few minutes and then the settler pulled out his phone to snap a picture with him (Oppenheimer). It's something you would see in a movie, but in reality you see both sides actually benefit from it."
Head of the Shomron Regional Council Gershom Mesika told Ynet that "we are very happy to learn that Yariv Oppenheimer is one of the soldiers on reserve duty in Mavo Dotan in the Shomron area."
The settler leader also poked fun at Oppenheimer, recalling an incident in which a Peace Now petition to the Supreme Court ended with a ruling that authorized the expansion of the Burchin settlement, a result which promoted the community to name him an 'honorary citizen'.
"As an honorary citizen of the Shomron and an IDF soldier, Oppenheimer is warmly invited to move to one of our communities," Mesika quipped.