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July 1, 2015 / 14 Tammuz, 5775
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Does New Neighborhood Negate PA Contiguity?


Keeping-Jerusalem

International opinion has it that the new planned Israeli neighborhood between Jerusalem and Maaleh Adumim will prevent the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state. Unfortunately, though, that is not true.

The neighborhood in question, currently known only as E-1, is not the only controversial neighborhood being planned. Inside Jerusalem itself, in an area liberated during the Six-Day War in 1967, a greatly expanded version of the tiny Givat HaMatos quarter is expected to be approved later this month.

Let’s start with E-1. Israel’s leaders had long threatened the Palestinian Authority not to brazenly violate the Oslo Accords and seek non-member state status at the United Nations. When the PA did precisely that, Israel promptly responded, as expected in the face of international provocations. No, it did not, as many Israelis had hoped, announce the annexation of Area C – i.e., Jewish communities and interests in Judea and Samaria currently under full Israeli control. Instead, Israel withheld tax monies it had collected for the PA and used them to pay the PA’s long-overdue debt to the Israel Electric Corporation, and approved the next planning stage of the E-1neighborhood.

The international community reacted with its predictable “outrage” and “grave concern,” wagging its finger at Israel for scorning the two-state solution. An Israeli diplomat was even given the Jerusalem Post’s stage to tell the world that Israel’s intention to develop E-1 was a “particularly severe blow for the Europeans” and “undercut Israel’s credibility in Europe…”

Left unsaid was that the UN vote upgrading the Palestinian Authority was a severe blow to Israel and undercut the PA’s credibility with any Israelis still holding out hope that the PA was interested in continuing the Oslo process, recognizing Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, and stopping violence and incitement.

The Post further quoted the diplomat as arguing that by taking this action in E-1, Israel had offended the countries that abstained, making it difficult for them to explain their “support” for Israel. The implication is that Israel must give more weight to ensuring that countries continue to abstain in “support” of Israel, than to actually countering the harmful effects of the new facts-on-the-ground that these countries did not oppose.

Let us be clear: The harm caused to the Palestinian Authority by this move has been tremendously overstated by the world media, and the importance for Israel has been equally understated.

Let it be further said plainly that developing E-1 is a critical move for Israel, saving the city of Maaleh Adumim (population: over 40,000) from becoming a Jewish enclave surrounded by PA-populated territory.

The New York Times actually wrote that a Jewish E-1 would “divid[e] the West Bank in two. The Palestinian cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem would be cut off from [Jerusalem], making the contiguous Palestinian state endorsed by the United Nations last week virtually impossible.” Other media outlets reported the same. (The Times later issued a correction regarding some of these points.)

Though the Times’s prediction would be a welcome prospect for many, it is far from true. Claiming that a Jewish E-1 prevents PA contiguity is akin to saying that building a wall along ten blocks of Ocean Parkway blocks access between Flatbush and Boro Park, or that closing off Washington, D.C. makes it impossible to get from New York to Florida.

Travel from north to south in the PA-controlled territories does not have to pass through Maaleh Adumim. To the east of Maaleh Adumim there is plenty of land for Arabs to traverse when they wish to go from point A to point B south (or north) of it. And for those who don’t want to detour to the east, Israel has stated that it will build tunnels and overpasses for Arab use.

Some governments interpret the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention as forbidding Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem. However, the late president Ronald Reagan, for one, did not agree.

The recent Levy Report submitted to Prime Minister Netanyahu explains that the rules and guidelines for “occupied territories” simply do not apply to Judea and Samaria, which were not captured from their legal sovereign. The report adds that in any event, the term “occupation” cannot apply to such a long period as 45 years, with no end in sight. Rather, the report states, if Jews have lived on land for several years with no Arab claimant objecting, Israel is well within its rights to allow them to register the land in their name.

The Arabs of the PA, on the other hand, are already building, quite illegally, in the E-1 area. The corridor that was to serve as the Jerusalem-Maaleh Adumim route has already been narrowed in many places from two kilometers to one (3/5 of a mile). The Arabs are seeking to gain absolute access to eastern Jerusalem via existing villages of Azariya, Abu Dis, and others. This would leave Jerusalem as it was before the Six-Day War: totally closed off on the east.

In short, if Israel were to lose control of E-1 because of illegal Arab construction and diplomatic pressure, the contiguity of Israel would be severely compromised in the region of its capital city.

Despite this, Prime Minister Netanyahu was quick to assure the world, in the Cabinet meeting just two days after the E-1 announcement, that he was not about to embark on actually “building” E-1, but merely that zoning and planning the neighborhood would continue to its next stage.

We at KeepJerusalem.org are hopeful that the Netanyahu government will not back down in the face of international pressure. He must stand true to his commitment to counter the dangerous upgrading of the PA’s status – which encourages the PA populace to believe that Israel’s destruction is not far-fetched and brings war closer – by strengthening Jerusalem and, as a result, the entire state of Israel.

At the same time, plans for another new neighborhood – this one inside southern Jerusalem – are well underway, and are expected to be approved by the Jerusalem municipality this month; more on this development in our column next week.

About the Author: Chaim Silberstein is president of Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech and the Jerusalem Capital Development Fund. He was formerly a senior adviser to Israel's minister of tourism. Hillel Fendel, past senior editor at Israel National News/Arutz-7, is a veteran writer on Jerusalem affairs. Both have lived in Jerusalem and now reside in Beit El.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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