Elections are nearing in Israel – scheduled for coming Monday, March 2nd. Thus, it is hunting season for getting the last votes which could possibly determine an outcome that is other than a deadlock. Today’s poll on Walla News indicates that the two major parties, Likud and Blue & White, are tied with 34 seats each, and that there is no projected block that can make it to the necessary 61-seat majority. In other words, the deadlock from last year, having already resulted in two extra elections, is bound to continue after this one, with a fourth election later this year.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has thus made some big promises concerning settlements, in an apparent attempt to garner more votes. The right bloc only needs 4 more seats – the center-left bloc is not even close. Thus, desperate times call for desperate promises. Jerusalem Post:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu crossed a diplomatic redline Tuesday when he announced he would advance plans for the construction of 3,500 homes in an undeveloped area of Ma’aleh Adumim known as E1.
This came atop Netanyahu’s confirmation that a tender had been published this week of 1,077 homes for a new settlement neighborhood in Givat Hamatos.
The E1 area lies between the the settlement of Maale Adumim and Jerusalem (which Israel considers its ‘united capital’), and building there would effectively mean a severing of the last territorial corridor between the southern and northern parts of the Occupied Palestinian West Bank. The Givat Hamatos development would further disconnect Bethlehem in the south from East Jerusalem.
The US ‘Liberal-Zionist’ advocacy group J Street, which strongly believes in a two-state solution as the only way forward, wrote in response:
These projects have been referred to by experts as ‘doomsday settlements’ because they bisect Palestinian population areas and, in the case of the E-1 settlement, cut through the West Bank in a way designed to prevent the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem. That’s why the international community considers these projects red lines and why the Israeli government has chosen not to move forward with construction in these areas. Until now.
J Street is urging its members to speak out ahead of the coming AIPAC conference (March 1st-3rd):
There is limited time to speak up and push back before Netanyahu moves forward with these projects and dooms Israelis and Palestinians to perpetual occupation and conflict without end.
But let us have a look at the history of Israeli plans to cross this major “red line” in the E1 area.
It was first championed by the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin – a Labor leader, in 1994, as he was in the midst of the process of signing the Oslo Accords. He viewed it as critically important to link Maale Adumim with Jerusalem, for the sake of ‘security’ – what else. The master plan for E1 was first approved in 1999. Yet despite the inherent wish across the Israeli political spectrum to realize the plan, there was an apprehension in the Israeli leadership relating to international objection, which had included the US, as it would make it all too obvious that Israel was working to prevent a viable Palestinian state. But times have moved on, and under the Trump administration there is far lesser objection to fear from the US.
If one looks at the map of Israel’s ‘separation barrier’ around Maale Adumim, there are already plans to encircle the whole settlement enclave with the wall. The E1 area has already been placed within the municipal boundaries of Maale Adumim since in the 1990’s. Israel has been poised to realize these intentions with more ‘facts on the ground’.
This is not even the first time Netanyahu pledged to build in E1. He did so also in 2012, during his second term, in an apparent response to the UN accepting Palestine as a non-member observer state, thus effectively recognizing Palestinian statehood.
The Israeli colonization of Palestine is a continually unfolding process. Like the ‘separation barrier’, it shifts over time. That wall, deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004, is also known as the “annexation wall” – and the ruling over its illegality was not based upon its existence per se, but that it cut into Palestinian territory. Israel uses it as a means to consolidate its colonialist settlement gains, under the pretext of ‘security’, and in the process it dissects Palestinian territory. J Street are clear about this being Netanyahu’s goal now:
Before our very eyes, the Netanyahu government is moving forward with new settlements and settlement expansions that would cement Israel’s control over the West Bank and consign Palestinians to disconnected enclaves with limited autonomy.
If severing Palestinian territorial continuity is a red line, then Israel already did that in 1948. Later, Rabin, that supposed peace dove, was only willing to offer “less than a state”, as he promised the Israeli parliament in 1995. This was followed by Ehud Barak’s (another Labor leader) “generous offer” in 2000 which also meant Bantustans. J Street might bemoan “disconnected enclaves with limited autonomy”, but this was always the Israeli plan, it was always about Bantustans. The Apartheid reality is simply becoming ever more clear under Trump, and there is no real Israeli opposition to it.