Sunday, February 1, 2009

Israel Seizes More Land

"Israel plans to build up West Bank corridor on contested land

by Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent

Israel has invested close to NIS 200 million during the past two years in preparing infrastructure for construction of housing units to create a contiguous block between Ma'aleh Adumim and East Jerusalem.

The neighborhood of Mevaseret Adumim, slated to be built on Area A1, has so far not been built because of strong American opposition. However the construction of a police base in May 2008 opened a window for massive construction in the area.

It is doubtful all this construction was meant to serve several hundred policemen and civilians traveling to the headquarters daily. The building of the police station, which was done with all required permits, appears to have been a necessary stage in the "claiming" of A1 ahead of constructing residential neighborhoods there.

"Ma'aleh Adumim is an inalienable part of Jerusalem and the State of Israel in any permanent settlement," read a statement from the office of Defense Minister Ehud Barak. "A1 is a corridor that connects Ma'aleh Adumim to Mount Scopus and therefore it is important for it to remain part of the country. This is the position of Labor since Yitzhak Rabin and also of the government of Barak in 1999, and the Americans know this position."

Point of contention

The recent visit to Israel of George Mitchell, the former Senator returning for another turn as special U.S. envoy to the Middle East, was described in Israel as having been 'not too bad.'

Mitchell, whom news reports described as wary of Israel and perhaps even hostile toward it, opted not to begin his new mission with a direct confrontation with his hosts. But the Israeli leadership understands clearly that it will be difficult to benefit from such leniency with the Obama administration for very long after the elections. Some of the potential points of tension between Israel and the United States were put in place during the tenure of the Kadima-Labor government.

The most blatant example is Area A1, 12,000 dunam north of Route 1, between Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim. The Ma'aleh Adumim Municipality is planning to build 3,500 housing units there which, in an official statement, will constitute "contiguous construction between our city to the capital Jerusalem and will be the Zionist response that will prevent the division of Jerusalem and the dislocation of Ma'aleh Adumim and Gush Adumim from the capital of Israel."

The other side of the coin, of course, is that this sort of contiguity will prevent Palestinian construction between East Jerusalem to Ramallah, and will make it difficult to reach agreement between Israel and the Palestinians on the question of permanent borders....