Behind the ‘peace process’

As Ehud Olmert busied himself shaking hands with Abbas and correcting uninformed journalists from calling the Annapolis summit a “peace conference”, the IDF yesterday ordered the expropriation of over 1,100 dunams of land from four Palestinian villages (Abu Dis, Arab al-Sawahra, Nebi Musa and Talhin Alhamar) in the West Bank, between East Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim. The land will be used for a new Palestinian road connecting East Jerusalem with Jericho, thereby freeing up the so-called E-1 area for Israeli development.

This follows a recent report that Israel’s police force in the West Bank is moving its HQ to the E-1 area.

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This is part of Israel’s cherished ‘E-1 Plan‘ to construct 3,500 apartments and a business park in the area between East Jerusalem and the illegal settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim, connecting the two under Israeli control and severing the West Bank into two, territorially non-contiguous cantons. It would also cut East Jerusalem off from the rest of the West Bank.

In short, as veteran Ha’aretz correspondent Akiva Eldar writes,

“This order is synonymous with putting an end to working on an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of the principle of two states with territorial contiguity”.

Three years ago, the E-1 plan was permanently ‘frozen’ after the Bush administration and the international community voiced strong objections. It seems Olmert has encountered a more welcoming climate, with media attention largely focused on the diplomatic theatrics, away from the hard realities on the ground.

The road being built represents the Israeli government’s generous gift to the Palestinians of “transportational contiguity” – that is: the separate cantons that will make up the Palestinian “state” will, at least, have roads running between them. The prisoners from each camp will be able to visit each other. Needless to say, anyone advocating this “transportational contiguity” for the Israeli state would be laughed off the stage.

This is the classic Israeli bantustan plan, rejected by Arafat at Camp David in 2000 and now being implemented unilaterally by force. If the E-1 development goes ahead, we can say good-bye to a two-state settlement.

Update: Abbas has come out explicitly with his territorial demands: a Palestinian state must include all of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, allowing for mutual and minor border alterations (land-swaps). This actually represents a significant Palestinian concession, but otherwise is simply a demand that Palestinians receive what they are entitled to under the law. Unfortunately, as Ha’aretz comments,

“the Palestinian demands appear to exceed anything that Israel would be willing to offer.”

Cross-posted at The Heathlander