One of the great surprises of my recent visit to Israel and Palestine was the morning I stood on a hillside south of Gilo in the Palestinian village of Wallajeh and gazed over at the settlement with its fancy red tile roofs. We were in a rural area 10 or 15 minutes south of Jerusalem. Palestinians were being forced off their land to make way for more settlers. And this was East Jerusalem??? But Jeffrey Goldberg had lately written, "Everyone knows" that Gilo is part of Jerusalem and will be an Israeli neighborhood after the two state solution comes into being (in his grandchild’s lifetime).
Standing there, I realized that this was pure Israeli propaganda to justify an ongoing landgrab. And the same holds for the rural suburb of Ramat Shlomo, where Netanyahu has announced more settlements, spitting in our president’s face.
When will American reporters cover the maze of colonization that is greater Jerusalem? When will they interview people like Michael Ratner, who saw this maze and said, the two state solution is finished?
Here Lara Friedman and Daniel Seidemann (who don’t think it’s finished) have a great post exploding the widespread American misconceptions of Jerusalem:
Those peddling this rubbish are guilty of transparent manipulation. Those buying it are guilty of having short memories and an excess of credulity.
In 1993, when the peace process was taking off, the settlement of Ramat Shlomo — which last week caused such a headache for Vice President Biden — didn’t exist. The site was an empty hill in East Jerusalem (not "no man’s land," as some have asserted), home only to dirt, trees and grazing goats. It was empty because Israel expropriated the land in 1973 from the Palestinian village of Shuafat and made it off-limits to development. Only later, with the onset of the peace process era, was the land zoned for construction and a brand-new settlement called Rehkes Shuafat (later renamed Ramat Shlomo) built.
If in 1993 you had asked what areas "everybody knows" would stay part of Israel under any future agreement, the area that is today Ramat Shlomo — territorially distinct from any other settlement and contiguous with the Palestinian neighborhood of Shuafat — would not have been mentioned.
The same can be said for the massive settlement of Har Homa, for which Israel issued new tenders in the past few days (sometime after the Ramat Shlomo-Biden fiasco). Here, again, the argument is that "everybody knows" this area will forever be part of Israel. But here again, we are talking about an area that at the outset of the peace process was empty land — devoid of Israelis, belonging mainly to Palestinians, and contiguous entirely with Palestinian areas — that anybody drawing a logical border would have placed on the Palestinian side.