Will new Israeli settlements be a deal breaker for a two-state solution?
By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | NOVEMBER 5, 2012
Who would have thought that an abandoned territory in the outskirts of a population center could turn into an obstacle for peace. The thing is, when war is profitable — it always is — and the profiteers keep their eyes on the cash prize, anything can be a deal breaker in a peace negotiation. This is the case of the conflict between Israeli leadership and Palestine.
The terrorist government of Israel has shown it has no intention of pursuing a solution to the war it now wages against mostly unarmed Arabs on the Gaza Strip, West Bank and pretty much everywhere else in the Middle East. In retaliation for the successful acceptance of Palestine as an Observer member state of the UN Security Council, Benjamin Netanyahu not only withheld tax money from the Palestinians, but also mandated that new settlements be built on the E-1 zone.
E-1 is mostly a wasteland overlooking the Dead Sea, but in political terms it is a treasure for Israel because by ordering the construction of settlements on E-1 the government of Israel will maintain alive the conflict with Palestine while it plays possum and acts as the victim of aggression. But Israel’s allies have had it already and even some European nations which have traditionally thrown their support behind Israel are now out of patience. The equation has changed variables as the European Parliament voted almost unanimously to support Palestine as a UN Observer member state, which raised even more tensions between Israel and European countries.
Because E-1 is a proposed colony of Israel and because Netanyahu strongly pledged to speed up the construction of new settlements on that area, some Western chancelleries declared that this action might be the final nail in the coffin of the two-state solution, which should result in the creation of a Palestinian state living next to Israel. Because of its strategic location, if Israel ends building in E-1, the West Bank would split almost in two, making it impossible to have a contiguous future Palestinian State.
Israel announced that it has begun preliminary work to build in this area now, although plans have existed for decades. The Israelis have deliberately pronounced the word taboo, “E-1”. Apart from announcing the construction of 3,000 new housing units in occupied territory, the Israeli government touched another sensitive nerve in the political arena, making it clear to the world that it does not recognize the Palestinians as an Observer state at the UN.
E-1 is reached by road from Jerusalem to Jericho. A detour leads to a long slope, ending at the top of one of the classic cobblestone West Bank hills. An Israeli police station is right at the top of the mount. It is the only building in an area that otherwise is ready for development.
The road uphill, which has up to three lanes, is riddled with roundabouts that lead nowhere, but new streets will certainly originate as soon as the official order to build is given. There are street lights, electricity and running water. Everything is in place. Next to the police station, there is a small gazebo with an explanatory panel signed by several Israeli parliament members, who visited the area three years ago. The panels cite part of a biblical text that promises to build the settlements. “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”
E-1 has an area of 12 square kilometers, most of them privately owned by Palestinians. In addition to some geostrategic issues, urbanization will force the expulsion of 11,000 Bedouin people who barely survive in the semi-desert enclave in Ir Amim. From E-1 it is possible to see East Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and up to Jordan. Opposite, it is possible to see Maale Adumim, one of the largest West Bank settlements that is home to about 40,000 Israelis and that would be the population center charge of hosting the controversial expansion of municipal limits. The development of E-1 is one of the great ambitions of the mayor of Maale Adumim, a member of the Likud government, who intends to take the settlements to the outskirts of Jerusalem.
Amir Chesin has lived in Maale Adumim for almost 30 years, but he does not agree with the Israeli plans to extend the settlements. He says that most Israeli people are excited about the expansion of the settlements and that many of them are becoming extreme right wingers. That is why he is actively looking to move elsewhere.
Israeli government sources explained that the idea to build in E-1 is nothing new. That is a project that dates back to the nineties, the time of then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and the idea is still the same as then. Since the idea was born 20 years ago, settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have continued to grow, to form a cordon around the Holy City.
The Israeli government has also decided to accelerate the plan to build 1,700 housing units in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in East Jerusalem, according to the newspaper Haaretz, this move comes in response to the UN vote. The planning and building committee of the city will examine the plan in two weeks time.
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