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Date posted: March 18, 2006
By Rami Bathish for MIFTAH

Amid the chaos of the Israeli armyís abduction of Palestinian member of parliament and Secretary General of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Ahmad Saídat (among other activists) last Tuesday, 14 March 2006, international attention has been distracted from Israelís continued policy of expanding its illegal settlement infrastructure in and around occupied Arab east Jerusalem.

Earlier this week, Israel began preparations to construct what will be one of the West Bankís key Israeli police headquarters in the E1 area, which connects Jerusalem to the West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Adumim, thereby encircling the city and isolating it from the rest of the Palestinian territories. In effect, the Israeli Government is cutting off more than 200,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites from their social, political, and economic livelihood in the West Bank.

Israelís E1 Plan, which was made public last August, had provoked wide international criticism as it poses a direct violation of the provision of the Road Map, and pre-empts the outcome of the now-stalled permanent status negotiations.

What is the E1 Plan?

In August 2005, Israeli authorities confiscated more than 1,585 dunnums (approximately 400 acres) of Palestinian land in east Jerusalem:

  1. 87 dunnums (22 acres) from the Mount of Olives neighbourhood,
  2. 477 dunnums (119 acres) from Al-Izariyyah neighbourhood,
  3. 809 dunnums (202 acres) from Abu Dis neighbourhood, and
  4. 212 dunnums (53 acres) from Al-Sawahra Al-Sharqiyyah neighbourhood.

The confiscated areas are intended to facilitate the continued construction of Israelís Apartheid Wall around Maíale Adumim, in a clear attempt to significantly expand the settlement and practically incorporate it into the municipal boundaries of the city. In effect, the Wall around Maíale Adumim will stretch 14 km. deep into the West Bank; annexing a total area larger than Tel Aviv itself.

Through the confiscation of these areas, Israel plans to add 25,000 settlers to Maíale Adumimís existing population, which currently stands at 30,000. Construction is already underway to add 2,100 housing units, which will absorb approximately 10,000 new settlers. The Israeli Government has also approved the construction of an additional 3,500 housing units under the E1 Plan, which will absorb an additional 15,000 settlers.

The implementation of the E1 Plan had been frozen in mid 2005 following a request by the US; however, through the recent construction work of the police headquarters, Israel is in defiance of both the Bush Administration and international law.

Implications:

These dangerous measures will effectively fulfil Israelís pre-meditated plans to (1) isolate east Jerusalem from the West Bank by encircling the city with settlement structures and the Apartheid Wall, (2) put an absolute end to its territorial contiguity with the rest of the Palestinian territories, and (3) tip the demographic balance of Jerusalem in favour of Israel by sustaining a Jewish majority through the incorporation of Jerusalemís illegal settler population, consequently undermining the Palestinian position in any future negotiations on permanent status issues.

MIFTAHís Position:

These latest developments clearly underline Israelís blatant violation of previous agreements, in particular the key provisions of the Road Map, which unequivocally stipulates that neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority must take unilateral steps that pre-empt permanent status negotiations.

MIFTAH calls for the unconditional reversal of the mentioned confiscation orders and the construction of the police headquarters near Maíale Adumim and urges the international community, particularly the Middle East Quartet, to immediately intervene to bring Israel to meet its legal and political obligations under the Road Map, which clearly states that Israel must freeze settlement construction and expansion, including natural growth.

In his speech on 26 May 2005, US President George W. Bush clearly expressed his support for the establishment of a viable democratic Palestinian state on the June 1967 boundaries, and stated that steps by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority must be carried out through negotiation, rather than through the use of force or through unilateral measures.

A viable Palestinian state cannot be established on fragmented territories in the West Bank (and the Gaza Strip); all of the Gaza Strip and all of the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, are classified as occupied territory under international law, hence their geographical contiguity forms the basis of the future Palestinian state.

These latest Israeli measures destroy the very foundations of peace, as the dismantling of Jewish settlements and the return to the June 1967 boundaries are an essential pre-requisite to the two-state solution.

Background Information on Israeli Settlements:

Since Israelís occupation of the West Bank (including east Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip in the June 1967 War, consecutive Israeli Governments (both Labour and Likud) have embarked on a crusade of relentless colonisation of the occupied territories, in violation of international law; most notably the provisions of the 4th Geneva Convention of 1949 and UN resolutions 242 and 338.

Since 1967, Israel has constructed a total of 167 settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories; 146 in the West Bank (including 12 major settlements in east Jerusalem), and 21 in the Gaza Strip. Israelís confiscation of hundreds of thousands of acres of Palestinian land has paved the way for the construction of these illegal settlements.

The population of Jewish settlers throughout the occupied Palestinian territories has reached an alarming total of 416,800 since 1967 (224,224 in the West Bank, 185,000 in east Jerusalem, and 7,576 in the Gaza Strip). The indigenous Palestinian population of the occupied territories totals 3.8 million (2.4 million in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and 1.4 million in the Gaza Strip).

Rami Bathish is director of the Media and Information Programme at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). He can be contacted at mip@miftah.org

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Source: MIFTAH, 18 March. 2006
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