Israel is Defining its Borders Unilaterally
The Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz made what was described by Israeli newspapers as a surprising political announcement in the course of a visit to the Jordan Valley. Mofaz said that one or two years after the Israeli elections, which will take place in March, the Israeli government will decide on Israel's permanent borders and "will act vigorously to implement them".
He said the permanent borders will include the Jordan Valley the land between the West Bank and Jordan along the Jordan River and the Jewish colonies in the West Bank.
Mofaz said, "Immediately after the elections the government will work on the permanent borders." As usual, and for the sake of the outside world, he said "Israel will try to determine the borders in agreement with the Palestinians." But he went on the say, "If it is impossible to reach [a settlement] on permanent borders through an agreement, we will go a different route, which at the moment would not be right to say.
"In the coming years, the State of Israel's permanent borders will be decided as well as the future of a majority of the settlements [colonies] in the [West Bank] and the Jordan Valley."
Mofaz made it clear that the government would include Occupied Jerusalem, Maale Adumim, the Etzion Bloc, Ariel, Reihan Shaked, Ofarim and the Jordan Valley. These are the areas that, according to Mofaz, "will set the State of Israel's borders".
These words were not actually surprising. What was surprising was that this was announced in public, in such clear words. The acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said a few days ago that the colonies will remain within the "security" fence and are an inseparable part of Israel (Jerusalem Post, February 7, 2006).
Olmert also said he intends to hold on to all of Israel's colonies along the border with Jordan. The Jerusalem Post commented on this statement saying, "It was the clearest indication to date of how Israel plans to draw its final borders."
Olmert, the paper said, actually meant there will be a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank, like the one in Gaza. This withdrawal will not be based on negotiations with the Palestinian National Authority, will not be in accordance with the roadmap, nor will it be along the lines of the Oslo Agreement and the other bilateral and international agreements and understandings. It will be dictated by Israel and will be based on Israel's military superiority and the unwillingness of the Quartet to take any serious measures to put the roadmap on track.
Israel is working very hard to finish the separation wall. Danny Tirza, in charge of the wall, explained the present status of the wall and the future plans, which really showed that Israel does not want a settlement based on negotiations and understanding between the two peoples. Work on the project began after Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 and proceeded rapidly, with more than 150 km built in the first year before the pace slowed.
Excluding segments of the wall that project deep inside the West Bank, the main perimeter will be finished within two months, Tirza said.
By the end of the summer, construction on the 85 km segment which falls roughly along the municipal borders of Occupied Jerusalem as defined by Israel will be complete, Tirza said. However, the extended segment encompassing Ma'aleh Adumim would not be complete before the end of the year.
The route of the fence around Occupied Jerusalem will sever the western parts of the city from areas where some 70,000 Palestinians with Jerusalem residence cards live, Tirza said. As such, the barrier will include 11 checkpoints to check the flow of people into and out of the city, he added. At least 90,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites will remain on the Israeli side.
Two of the three remaining segments of the fence, around Ariel and Gush Etzion, are also the most problematic for engineering, legal and political reasons, and will not be finished until 2007. The remaining section, from Metzadot Yehuda in the southern Judean Hills to the fence's termination point around 8 km from the Dead Sea, should be completed by the end of the year.
Perhaps the most geographically complex segment of the fence is the one encompassing Ariel and its neighbouring colonies. While it had been decided all colonies in Ariel would be included in three "fingers" of the fence, Tirza has recently proposed to the government that instead, Kedumim, Karnei Shomron and their satellite colonies be incorporated into a separate segment that would extend east from Alfei Menashe.
Such a route would create a separate Israeli-controlled corridor north of the Ariel "fingers".
If his new proposal is accepted, Tirza, showing a lot of "graciousness", said he would also build Palestinian roads through and under Israeli areas protected by the fence to complement some that are already in service.
Due to the presence of 45,000 Israelis and 17,000 Palestinians in the area, a supplementary wall will be built to separate the main Palestinian population centre of three villages from the Jewish towns. In that area, an access road leading east will be built for the Palestinians to allow movement to and from the West Bank; however, it will include an Israeli army checkpoint.
There will also be a stretch of a few kilometres where, due to purely geographical reasons, the wall will not completely close off the West Bank. It will only smash into enclaves and seize 10 per cent of its area.
In conclusion, one can say that Israel does not look for peace, does not care a bit for bilateral or international agreements. Unless the United States changes its mind, Israel will continue to dictate the course of events.