Israel to protect Jerusalem?
Haaretz is reporting Sunday morning that Israel has installed infrastructure to build some 3,500 housing units on 12,000 dunams of land between Maalaeh Adumim and Jerusalem (the land in question is referred to in the linked article as A-1, but it is sometimes referred to in the media - and in previous posts on this issue in this blog - as E-1). The goal of the building is to provide for contiguous Jewish building between Jerusalem's Mount Scopus and Maaleh Adumim.
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.In March 2008, Israel delayed opening the police station discussed above as a 'gesture' to Condi Clueless. But later, it was quietly opened.
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."
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. This is why the U.S. has strongly opposed this sort of Israeli construction for more than a decade. Israeli governments have avoided construction in this area, mostly because of U.S. pressure.
A1 was included into the territory of Ma'aleh Adumim as early as 1994 and in May 1999, during the transition period between the government of Netanyahu to that of Barak, the Supreme Planning Committee approved the construction plan, however it has been unable to implement it because more permits are required, including from the Defense Minister.
A tour of Area A1 with Col. (res.) Shaul Arieli, a member of the Peace and Security Council, revealed that in the past two years there has been enormous infrastructure construction in the area. Last May, the Judea and Samaria Police headquarters was built atop a hill, where it had moved from the neighborhood of Ras al-Amud. Even though it is a relatively small complex inside a huge area, a very large system of roads has already been completed, including an overpass, highways (some three lanes wide), traffic circles, lighting, observation posts, fences and a dividing barrier on the highway. The cost of this construction is estimated at NIS 100 million.
In addition, a road was built from the village of Hizma al-Za'im east of Jerusalem that is meant to allow Palestinian traffic from Jerusalem to Ramallah, bypassing A1. The contractor who built the road, which has not yet been opened to traffic, said on a Channel 10 interview two months ago that approximately NIS 120 million had been invested.
Israel has long taken the position that it is entitled to build in areas that it intends to retain under any future 'settlement' with the 'Palestinians.' And, as I noted in March, Maaleh Adumim is just a few minutes east of Jerusalem and is a fairly large city (population approximately 32,000 as of 2006). Maaleh Adumim is considered a 'settlement bloc' that Israel 'expects' to retain under any future 'peace settlement' with the 'Palestinians' and that it was widely assumed that Maaleh Adumim was one of the places Bush had in mind when he referred to 'changing realities' in Judea and Samaria in an April 2004 speech. If Israel intended to keep Maaleh Adumim, it would make no sense to turn over the small strip of land known as E-1 that is between Jerusalem and Maaleh Adumim to the 'Palestinians.'
The fact that this strip of land will connect Maaleh Adumim to Jerusalem is a bonus from Israel's perspective. In the map at the top, the green line represents the pre-1967 border and the blue line represents the current Jerusalem municipal limits.
It's time that there consequences to 'Palestinian' intransigence. This move that will protect Jerusalem is long overdue.