APN's daily news review from Israel
Monday December 3, 2012
Quote of the day:
"By 2013, Jerusalem will be so Balkanized that it will be impossible in any way to carve out a solution that is acceptable to both Israelis and Palestinians."
--Attorney Danny Seidemann, an expert in settlements in the Jerusalem area.
On the ground in E-1:
Orly Halpern joined APN's Israel study tour yesterday on a trip into the West Bank to learn about the controversial E-1 area, the narrow corridor between E. Jerusalem and the Israeli settlement of Maaleh Adumim where Israel has announced it plans to build. Attorney Danny Seidemann, an expert in settlements in the Jerusalem area who works with progressive organizations, explained the importance. Here are the highlights :
We rode on a bus through an E. Jerusalem military checkpoint in the north of the city and traveled east along a windy two-lane road through the scrubby desert hills till we arrived at a hilltop with a view south towards Jerusalem and Maaleh Adumim. We were next to the Shai District police station, one of the only structures Israel managed to build in the 4.6 square mile space that is E-1. That's because the US has thwarted Israeli plans till now to build in one of the most sensitive places in the West Bank.
The reason for the commotion over plans to construct in E-1 is that it will make a two state solution impossible, Seidemann explained. Firstly, it will it divide the West Bank into two parts, preventing a contiguous state, except perhaps by an umbilical chord highway 16 yards wide, he said. Waving his hand from the settlement of Maaleh Adumim on one hilltop towards French Hill, a Jewish settlement neighborhood, he showed how Israel would create a Jewish strip through the center of the West Bank. Secondly, it will cut off E. Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. The Palestinians want E. Jerusalem as the capital of their state. However, successive right-wing Israeli governments have promised never to return E. Jerusalem to the Palestinians and instead to keep Arab E. Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. Building on E1 allows Israel to close its hold around the north and north-east of East Jerusalem.
Because of its strategic nature consecutive US Presidents have ordered Israeli Prime Ministers to stop any plans to build there over the last eight years and they have acquiesced. Until now.
"The decision to implement plans for E-1 is not a routine decision," said Seidemann. "It is a doomsday move. This is serious. If the government of Israel is allowed to fulfill its aspirations, it will."
Seidemann estimates it will take another six to nine months till construction begins. In that time, people will have the opportunity to raise objections to the plans. "In that time, the fate of the two-state solution is in jeopardy."
Seidemann explains that on Jerusalem's south flank are three more settlement projects, which cumulatively are equivalent to E-1. They are the expansion of Gilo neighborhood, the expansion of the Har Homa neighborhood and the creation of Givat Hamatos, a new settlement neighborhood to be built south of Beit Tzafafa. The three neighborhoods line up along the south rim of Jerusalem to block off the Arab E. Jerusalem neighborhoods from Bethlehem and the rest of the south of the West Bank. Seidemann said that the Jerusalem municipality had approved 2,610 housing units in Givat Hamatos while US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was in the region trying to negotiate a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. That was quickly stopped through US pressure. But, Seidemann said that by the end of the month, it will be approved making it what would be the first new neighborhood built in Jerusalem since Har Homa in 1998. "We are weeks away from the end of the two-state solution," said Seidemann. "By 2013, Jerusalem will be so Balkanized that it will be impossible in any way to carve out a solution that is acceptable to both Israelis and Palestinians."
Seidemann suggested an interesting solution to E-1: building a 'Mayo Clinic' run by the EU in E-1 for 49 years. The Palestinians would get sovereignty and the Israelis would get third-party involvement and securities.
Prepared for APN by Orly Halpern, independent freelance journalist based in Jerusalem.