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Monday, December 03, 2012

The truth about E-1

Many articles in the past 48 hours have included breathless statements like this one:
Yariv Oppenheimer, head of the Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now said: "If we build in E1 the two-state vision will truly be history ... it is a strategic point that if built, will prevent the Palestinians from having a normal state."
The usual keyword is "viable":
...[E]ven friendly European countries are fed up with Israel’s continuing illegal settlement of areas the Palestinians will need if they are to have a viable state...

Palestinians bitterly oppose the project, as it would effectively cut the occupied West Bank in two, north to south, and sever it from Jerusalem, and make the creation of a viable Palestinian state even more problematic.

That announcement included 3,000 new settler homes and sped up plans for building a settlement in an area vital for a viable Palestinian state, connecting the West Bank with East Jerusalem, known as E-1.
Once again, anti-Israel activists repeat a mantra that lazy journalists pick up on and accept as the truth.

And once again, the Israeli government is not helping matters; no one is explaining that the viability of a Palestinian Arab state is not affected by building in E1.

If you are interested in the facts, the JCPA published a good article on this very issue - in 2009:
  • The E-1 area is a part of the Israeli city of Maale Adumim, located immediately adjacent to Jerusalem. There is an E-1 construction plan that was devised in order to link Maale Adumim and its 36,000 residents to Jerusalem. Every Israeli prime minister since Yitzhak Rabin has supported the plan. The E-1 site covers an area of largely uninhabited, state-owned land.
  • Without control of the E-1 area, Israel is apprehensive about a Palestinian belt of construction that will threaten Jerusalem from the east, block the city’s development eastward, and undermine Israel’s control of the Jerusalem-Jericho road. This major artery is of paramount strategic importance for Israel in order to transport troops and equipment eastward and northward via the Jordan Rift Valley in time of war.
  • Contrary to reports, the completion of E-1 would not cut the West Bank in half and undermine Palestinian contiguity. Israel has planned a new road that would allow Palestinian traffic coming from the south to pass eastward of Maale Adumim and continue northward to connect with the cities in the northern West Bank. This Palestinian bypass road would actually reduce the time for Palestinian drivers traveling in a north-south direction who would encounter no Israeli roadblocks.
  • The main threat to Israel’s future contiguity comes from encroachments on E-1 made by illegal Palestinian construction. Israeli and Palestinian construction in the West Bank has been governed by the legal terms of the Oslo II Interim Agreement from September 28, 1995. The area around E-1 is within Area C, where, according to Oslo II, Israel retained the powers of zoning and planning. As a result, much of the recently completed Palestinian construction there is illegal. In contrast, none of the Oslo Agreements prohibited Israeli settlement activity, though Israel undertook unilateral limitations upon itself in this area in recent years.
  • Israeli construction of E-1 will not undermine Palestinian contiguity, but were Israel to lose control of E-1, the contiguity of Israel would be severely compromised.
...The Israeli interest, one that tends to be ignored by the international community, is to bring E-1 to fruition by establishing contiguity between Jerusalem in the west and Maale Adumim as well as the approaches to the Dead Sea in the east, as part of a security belt of Jewish communities surrounding Israel’s capital. Without control of the E-1 area, Israel is apprehensive about a Palestinian belt of construction that will threaten Jerusalem from the east, block the city’s development eastward, and undermine Israel’s control of the Jerusalem-Jericho road. This major artery is of paramount strategic importance for Israel in order to transport troops and equipment eastward and northward via the Jordan Rift Valley in time of war, and this road is already subject to growing pressure from unchecked Palestinian building.

...With a view toward consolidating Jerusalem’s status as the capital of Israel, successive Israeli governments planned and built a chain of neighborhoods and satellite towns around the city. Maale Adumim to the east, Givat Zeev to the north, and Efrat in the Etzion Bloc to the south were all established back in 1982. Beitar, southwest of Jerusalem, was established in 1990. Surrounding these satellite towns are dozens of additional communities. Israel views these satellite towns as part of a single Jerusalem metropolitan area.2 All Israeli governments have conceived this settlement bloc, akin to the other major settlement blocs established in the West Bank relatively close to the “green line,” as destined to remain within the area of the State of Israel and to be annexed to it in the framework of a permanent peace agreement.3

On April 14, 2004, U.S. President George W. Bush sent a letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in this vein. In the letter, Bush declared that the U.S. position was that in any final Israeli-Palestinian arrangement, the demographic reality that was created on the ground since the Six-Day War should be taken into account, and that Israel could not be expected to withdraw totally from all areas of the West Bank.4 Sharon viewed the letter from President Bush as an Israeli achievement that derived from the decision by his government to approve the Gaza-Northern Samaria disengagement plan.

The route of the West Bank separation fence was plotted on the basis of the principle of eventually incorporating the major settlement blocs within Israel. Some 220,000 of the 290,000 settlers reside within these major settlement blocs. In general, Israel’s High Court of Justice has upheld the principle of including the settlement blocs west of the security fence.

...In a Knesset discussion on October 5, 1994, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin declared: “United Jerusalem would also encompass Maale Adumim as well as Givat Zeev as the capital of Israel under Israeli sovereignty.” Six months previously, in April, Rabin handed over the annexation documents of the E-1 area to Maale Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel.14 On March 13, 1996, Prime Minister Shimon Peres reaffirmed the government’s position that Israel will demand applying Israeli sovereignty over Maale Adumim in the framework of a permanent peace agreement.

...The main threat to Israel’s future contiguity comes from encroachments on E-1 made by illegal Palestinian construction. Israeli and Palestinian construction in the West Bank has been governed by the legal terms of the Oslo II Interim Agreement from September 28, 1995. Oslo II divided the West Bank into three different jurisdictions: Areas A, B, and C. In Area C, according to Oslo II, Israel retained the powers of zoning and planning (Annex III, Protocol Concerning Civil Affairs, Article 27). The area around E-1 is within Area C and much of the recently completed Palestinian construction there did not receive Israeli approval and, as a result, is illegal. In contrast, none of the Oslo Agreements prohibited Israeli settlement activity, which was considered an issue for permanent status negotiations in the future. Despite the absence of an Israeli settlement freeze, Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo II Interim Agreement, which covered the West Bank, nonetheless.

The real issue is not "Palestinian contiguity" - any glance at a map shows that to be a lie, something reporters cannot be bothered to do - but Jerusalem. Palestinian Arabs, against all historical evidence, say that Jerusalem is "Palestinian" and an essential part of their hoped-for state. There is actually no reason a Palestinian Arab state must include parts of Jerusalem - right now, the PA is headquartered in Ramallah and functioning normally.

The reason they want Jerusalem is not because of historic or legal ties. It is because they know that Jerusalem is the heart of the Jewish people and they want to wrench that away. Once they weaken Israel's hold on the holy city they weaken Israel's very existence. All the other arguments are simply obfuscations around that simple fact.

Israelis know this, and so do Palestinian Arabs. The world media has yet not figured out this essential fact though, and parrot the lie that a Palestinian Arab state depends on Jerusalem. It doesn't, any more than Jordan depended on Jerusalem between 1948 and 1967.