Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert said on Saturday that the government of Benjamin Netanyahu was taking Israel into unprecedented isolation with its policy on Jewish settlements.
He singled out Israel’s recent announcement that it would build new settlement homes in the E1 corridor near Jerusalem. The plan has sparked international protest.
Olmert said such plans had been around for years. But making the announcement days after the United States sided with Israel against the Palestinians’ successful bid for de facto statehood recognition by the UN General Assembly was a slap in the face to Israel’s main ally.
“Bibi Netanyahu,” he said, using the prime minister’s nickname, “is isolating Israel from the entire world in an unprecedented way, and we will pay a high price in every facet of our lives, and the Israeli public should know it.”
The settlement plans have provoked worldwide condemnation, with the United Nations, the United States and the European Union all voicing criticism of the project which they see as complicating any attempts at peace with Palestinians.
In Berlin this week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Netanyahu to avoid “one-sided moves”.
Olmert, speaking on Israel’s “Meet the Press”, said he did not embark on a widely expected bid to run in Israel’s upcoming January election due to a lack of unity in the center-left bloc, as well as lingering legal troubles.
A former head of the centrist Kadima party, Olmert was in July largely cleared of corruption charges that had forced him from office in 2008.
Sergio Yahni from ALTERNATIVE INFORMATION CENTER (AIC) in his article titled “E1: MILITARY REASONING, HUMAN CONSEQUENCES”, said: Building in E1 does not prevent a future scenario of confrontation, as Israelis say, but instead creates an immediate confrontation. A settlement in this area will divide the West Bank, eroding the geographic platform for a Palestinian state by dividing it into three separate blocs: the Gaza Strip, south West Bank and north West Bank.
The impact for the Palestinian population living in and surrounding the area will be disastrous, as natural growth is prevented, the Palestinian communities will be isolated and depopulation will certainly occur.
International anger over Israeli settlement construction has snowballed in recent days following Israel’s plans to build 3,000 homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as retaliation for the U.N. General Assembly decision to upgrade the PLO status to that of a non-member state.
The international community criticized particularly Israel’s decision to resume preparations for construction in the E1 area, located between the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem.
Despite international pressure, the Civil Administration’s higher planning committee approved advancement of this construction. Parties can now submit their objections to the plan, and only after these are addressed can planning move forward. Actual construction is still far off.
The plan submitted for objections includes the construction of a commercial center and educational establishments to be built around the already existing district police station, already built, in addition to 2,000 housing units.
Any further discussion on the plan will require approval of the coordinator of government activities in the territories (COGAT), the Israeli military body responsible for coordination between the Civil Administration and government.Israeli security-oriented analysts conceive building in the E1 area as a strategic objective for Israel.
Netanyahu’s perception on Israeli security needs
Professor Efraim Inbar, Director of the Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) in Bar Ilan University, for example, claims in a factsheet published on 5 December 2012 that building in E1 is crucial for Israel’s security doctrine.
Inbar states that through this area runs a corridor from the military bases in central Israel to the West Bank area of the Jordan Valley, along which the army is able to transport troops without interference from concentrations of Palestinian population.
Inbar says that the settlement of “Maaleh Adumim… serves as the linchpin in establishing an effective line of defense along the Jordan Valley against aggression from the east.”
He further adds that a Jewish settlement in the E1 area will “secure the only safe route via which Israel can mobilize troops from the coast to the Jordan Valley if necessary.” Additionally, it “will prevent the division of Jerusalem.”
The question is why should Israel want to have a safe corridor to transport troops to the Jordan Valley? After all, the peace treaty with Jordan annihilates the threats from this border.
According to Inbar, relaying on the peace treaty with Jordan is a short-term perspective. He claims that such a corridor is needed because Israel has to take into consideration an Islamic overthrow of Jordan’s Hashemite regime.
Inbar’s security-oriented reasons for advancing construction in the E1 area reflect the perception of Benjamin Netanyahu on Israel’s security needs. In June 2009 Netanyahu choose BESA as the venue at which to present his vision of the future of Palestinian-Israeli relations.
At this event the Israeli Prime Minister claimed, echoing BESA’s strategic thinking, that a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is possible under the conditions that Israeli security requirements will be guaranteed and the Palestinians will recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people.
Only then, Netanyahu said, “we will be ready in a future peace agreement to reach a solution where a demilitarized Palestinian state exists alongside the Jewish state.”
Following BESA’s basic security perceptions Netanyahu also made it clear in his speech that such a scenario won’t happen because “Palestinian moderates are not yet ready to say the simple words: Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, and it will stay that way.”
For that reason, “the claim that territorial withdrawals will bring peace with the Palestinians, or at least advance peace, has up till now not stood the test of reality.”
However, building in E1 does not prevent a future scenario of confrontation, but instead creates an immediate confrontation. A settlement in this area will divide the West Bank, creating two separate geographical blocs linked through a single road, which is still being built.
Moreover, it will erode the geographic platform for a Palestinian state by dividing it into three separate blocs: the Gaza Strip, south West Bank and north West Bank.
E1 Zionist Settlements Building Disastrous for Palestinians
The impact for the Palestinian population living in and surrounding E1 will be disastrous. The settlement will not only prevent the natural growth of these Palestinian communities, but as we have witnessed since implementation of Israeli separation policies from 2002, it will lead to the depopulation of those communities.
Some 2,300 Palestinian Bedouins living in small communities between Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem will be displaced. Most of them are refugees whose families were forced out of Israel’s Negev area in the 1950s. Until 1967 they maintained a traditional lifestyle of raising and herding livestock in the eastern periphery of Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley.
However, since Israel’s 1967 occupation, the areas in which the Bedouin are allowed to live have been continuously reduced as Israel has declared certain areas as closed military zones, and settlements were subsequently created on these lands.
In addition, around fifty thousand Palestinians living in the towns of Anata, Abu Dis and Azaria will be completely isolated, sandwiched between the new settlement to the east and the Separation Wall to the west. A single road that runs between Bethlehem and Ramallah will be their sole connection to the world.
Current experience with Palestinian populated areas that were isolated by the Separation Wall highlight a steady trend of de-population, as residents prefer to migrate over living in an open air prison.
Such is the case with the enclave of Bir Nabala, located between Ramallah and Jerusalem, and Sheikh Saed, situated southeast of Jerusalem. Human rights organizations estimate that since the enclaves were isolated, 20 to 30 percent of the residents have left their homes.
Professor Inbar, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel’s Civil Administration don’t care about the fate of more than 50 thousand Palestinians they are sentencing to poverty, isolation and displacement.
There is only one reason for this indifference: these 50 thousand Palestinians are not Jews and their fate was sealed, unless the global community manges to stop it. (T/HSH)