And getting tougher...
After putative PA president Abbas went to the UN late last year to seek recognition as a state, PM Netanyahu made several announcements, including the fact that planning for building would be advanced in the area between Ma'aleh Adumim and Jerusalem known as E1.
This caused a furor among the Arabs and their supporters because, went the claim, building in E1 would prevent a contiguous Palestinian state from being established.
This is simply not the case, and I want to review the situation once again before proceeding.
Here you see a map of the E1 area and Ma'aleh Adumim. Note the arrows saying "To Ramallah" to the north, and "To Bethlehem" to the south. What the Arabs want is continuity of Ramallah and Bethlehem via a tract of land that is directly adjacent to eastern Jerusalem. That is because they still covet eastern Jerusalem (at a bare minimum, and all of Jerusalem, more honestly) as the capital of their state some day. That requires that state to be up against eastern Jerusalem.
Once there is contiguity between Ma'aleh Adumim -- which is itself only seven kilometers (just over four miles) to the east of Jerusalem -- and Jerusalem, via E1, a swath of Arab land that runs along all of Jerusalem's eastern border is no longer possible. This does not mean, it should be noted, that a theoretical Palestinian State could not abut Jerusalem at some eastern points. There just wouldn't be contiguity along the whole eastern border of the city.
Credit: Israel Hayom
But in any event, Jerusalem will never again be divided and is not going to serve in any part as the capital of a Palestinian Arab state. Jerusalem was only divided once in its 3,000 year history: During the illegal occupation by Jordan of eastern Jerusalem from 1948 to 1967. Since then full Israeli sovereignty has been applied to eastern Jerusalem and Israel's basic law stipulates that the undivided city is the capital of Israel.
And the government has consistently envisioned Ma'aleh Adumim -- with a population now of some 40,000 -- as being contiguous with Jerusalem, were there to be a Palestinian Arab state; there has been no intention to either abandon it or to allow it to be surrounded by an Arab state on all sides.
Now look at this map of Judea and Samaria and see where Ma'aleh Adumim is. There is considerable area from this city eastward to the Jordan River. You'll see that Jericho, controlled by the PA, is to the (north) east of Ma'aleh Adumim. Thus it is obvious: Were there to be a Palestinian Arab state, it could still have contiguity of area from north to south even if E1 were developed. That continuity would simply flow east of Ma'aleh Adumim. Building in E1 would not "jeopardize" the non-existent "two-state solution."
And, I should add, lest there be any doubt about this, this city and E1 are fully and solidly within Area C, allocated by Oslo to full Israeli control.
All of this background is essential, not because I am envisioning a Palestinian Arab state but, because of what is being claimed now by the Arabs.
Two days ago, some 250 Palestinian Arabs and "activist" supporters -- organized by the non-governmental Popular Struggle Coordination Committee -- set up an "outpost" with more some 25 tents on Area E1 to protest Israeli plans for the area. They declared that they were building a new village, which they were calling Bab el-Shams (Gate of the Sun). "Bab el-Shams is our gateway to Jerusalem," the committee told the media.
Hanan Ashwari, of the PLO, said that the Palestinian Arabs "had a right to live anywhere in their state."
Credit: Flash 90
Netanyahu immediately ordered roads to the area closed and then had the area declared a closed military zone. Several PA ministers were prevented from entering.
Before full action could be taken, however, an attorney for the group, Tawfiq Jabareen, claiming that the land was private Palestinian Arab land, filed a petition with the High Court for a temporary injunction against the State of Israel.
Everything is "private Palestinian land," if you believe PA and PLO representatives.
Jabareen maintained that the property had been "misclassified" as Israeli land. He said he was representing four Bedouin families, that the land was theirs, and that the outpost was being established as part of a project to attract tourists to learn about their culture. Allegedly, they were planning to teach people how to grind wheat on stones and make pita bread.
They are inventive, I'll say that much.
The temporary injunction was granted -- as long as there was not an emergency warranting an evacuation.
The Civil Administration for Judea and Samaria (which operates under the umbrella of the Ministry of Defense), says the land belongs to the State and that those who pitched the tents did so without permits. It issued eviction notices.
And the injunction was appealed by the State. A representative of the state attorney's office said that “An urgent evacuation is needed because of urgent security concerns in order to prevent a serious breach of public order.” According to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, relying upon "up-to-date intelligence," the outpost was set up to provoke riots "of national and international consequence."
In the small hours this morning, Israeli police entered the site and evacuated some 150 persons who were there. With the exception of Mustafa Barghouti, Palestine National Initiative Director, and one other person, they were not arrested but, rather, escorted out, put on buses and brought to Kalandiya.
Apparently the tents will not be removed until there is documentation of the ownership of every plot of land on which they stand.
With certainty, things are tough and getting tougher in Syria. As of now, it is estimated that 60,000 have died there, and the count goes on. While the world watches.
As Palestinian Arabs there have on some occasions taken the side of the government and on other occasions taken the side of rebels, their position is hardly secure.
Thus, last month Abbas appealed to the UN to make it possible for these Palestinian Arabs to come to PA controlled areas of Judea and Samaria and to Gaza. And the UN successfully brokered a deal in which Israel would permit them to come. Israel's condition was that they relinquish their "right" to return to Israel.
Abbas has now given an interview to the media in which he described this deal and his subsequent decision to reject it:
"So we rejected that and said it’s better they die in Syria than give up their right of return."
An indication of how deeply Abbas cares for "his people," of course. Did they all sign off on this refusal? But let's look at what's underneath it: In today's radicalized climate, were he to agree to relinquish the "right of return," he would lose whatever leverage he has politically and possibly his life. (See below on reconciliation with Hamas.)
He is willing to let others risk death in order to save himself. No surprise at all.
Lt. Col (ret.) Yonaton Halevi, in a briefing for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, takes a closer look at Abbas's more radical tone (emphasis added):
On January 4th of this year, he gave a speech honoring the founding of Fatah in which he advanced a radical political doctrine.
"In his speech Abbas avoids all mention of a historic compromise with Israel that would bring the conflict to an end. Nor does he "He did not mention the land-for-peace formula or the establishment of a Palestinian state beside Israel. Instead, Abbas chose to reemphasize that the Palestinian people remain on the path of struggle to realize 'the dream of return' of the Palestinian refugees and their millions of descendants.
"Abbas pledged to continue the path of struggle of previous Palestinian leaders, mentioning the Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, who forged a strategic alliance with Nazi Germany, and heads of Palestinian terror organizations who were directly responsible for the murder of thousands of Israeli civilians. All are equal and suitable partners in the Palestinian struggle, and their ideological platform, even if it is terrorist and/or radical-Islamist, is a source of inspiration for the Palestinian people.
"...Anyone who expected that Abbas would follow a more moderate course after the UN General Assembly resolution of November 29, 2012, upgrading the status of the PLO's Observer Mission to that of an observer state, was undoubtedly disappointed with Abbas' remarks. He was not preparing the Palestinian people for making peace, but rather reverting to rhetoric perpetuating and even escalating the conflict."
Ambassador Dore Gold, president of the JCPA, has written about Abbas as well:
"...What is important is not the vapid debate over whether Abbas can still be regarded as a partner for peacemaking, but rather to internalize that the political environment in 2013 no longer resembles what the Middle East looked like when Israel began talking to the Palestinians in 1993.
"The next Israeli government must accept the fact that given what is going on in the Middle East, it is completely unrealistic to propose a negotiation to reach a full-blown final status agreement with the Palestinians.
"Given the regional dangers on the horizon, any political arrangement in the future must have a much stronger security component than what was proposed in the past. More than ever, Israel needs to preserve the ability to defend itself, by itself, no matter how the declared intentions of its neighbors change."
It is much to be regretted that many in the international community are oblivious to how " completely unrealistic it is to propose a negotiation to reach a full-blown final status agreement with the Palestinians."
That certainly applies to the Europeans, who have no business whatsoever telling us what to do. But attempt to tell us, they do:
The word now is that France and Britain, with support from Germany, are honing a new "peace proposal," which they hope to unveil in March.
"...the goal of the EU plan is to bring about the establishment of an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with its capital in East Jerusalem. The report said the EU intends to set a clear timetable for negotiations between the two sides in 2013."
They are totally daft, but, harboring more than a bit of malice towards us, they can be a very painful thorn in our collective side.
What occurs to me, as I read this, is that Netanyahu is likely to factor in these international nuances as he shapes his coalition. Several alternatives lie before him. He might move right, incorporating Habayit Hayehudi, with intention of standing strong. Or he might bring in left-center parties to show the world how amenable to compromise he is.
Oh, how he needs backbone now! I'm not going to predict what is going to happen, but will say that I'm glad he acted with alacrity with regard to E1.
Meanwhile, Jordan's King Abdullah has announced that he may host talks between Israel and the Palestinians in as little as a month. For that's when there will be "a window of opportunity." What window? Obama's inauguration for a second term. He's communicating with the Europeans but expects input from Obama as well, as he works to develop "fresh ideas."
One happy piece of news after another.
What I don't know is if this is simply Abdullah talking -- as this might strengthen him internationally, or if there has been some very quiet agreement on meeting. The likelihood that Abbas would buy into this, considering his current negotiations with Hamas, seems remote indeed. But for the first time recently I've seen talk -- however vague -- about a Palestinian-Jordanian federation in mainstream media.
What is clear to me is that Israel will not push Abdullah or make him look weak. He is balancing a very unstable situation, as Islamists eye his throne. I might see Netanyahu reasoning that a (token) meeting in Amman might have consequences far less serious than if Obama or the EU were breathing down our neck.
Last week, Abbas met with Hamas politburo head Khalid Mashaal in Egypt, as Egypt's president Morsi worked to broker reconciliation arrangements between the two groups. While unity is hardly a done deal, Fatah and Hamas are now on better terms than they have been in a long time. This follows Hamas's engagement with Israel and Abbas's unilateral bid in the UN.
And the good news.
Last week Israel had storms, first rain and then snow. Days of storms and drenching rain.
Now it has been announced that Israel has moved from a situation of water crisis to a period of water stability. The Kinneret, which is now at its highest level in 20 years, had 100 million tons of water poured into it in the course of the storm -- and there is still melt-off from the Hermon to come. The winter is not yet over and already 130% of the nation's average in rain has already fallen.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
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