The Guardian 30 March, 2005

"Greater Israel" push

On March 21 the Israeli government confirmed its approval of plans to build 3500 new housing units in two new neighbourhoods in Ma’ale Adumim, an illegal West Bank settlement. The construction would significantly expand the settlement toward the northeast and around east Jerusalem, a move that will tighten the Israeli stranglehold on Jerusalem and its Palestinian residents even further.

Israel’s decision reveals that it has no true intention of solving its decades-old conflict with the Palestinians by pursuing a peaceful solution, but rather regards a Palestinian defeat as a fait accompli.

Regional and international attention over the past few months has focused on Israel’s decision to withdraw its troops from and dismantle settlements in Gaza. This issue has served as a distraction from an even bigger Israeli strategic move, which is to increase its presence in the West Bank and implement its “Greater Israel” plan.

Israel’s decision to construct more housing units in the West Bank makes it clear to the international community that by pulling out of some Palestinian territories, it considers itself as having the right to step up its presence in other parts. By securing a stronghold in and around Jerusalem, Israel crushes any hopes of Palestinians gaining full control of the West Bank for a future state with east Jerusalem as its capital.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat summed up the situation eloquently in a report by the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz: “If this project is carried out, it means shutting the door for negotiations and peace ... this project intends to determine the future of Jerusalem by settlements and not negotiations.”

However, the expansion of Ma’ale Adumim, as well as of other settlements, aggravates several problems, including boxing in Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem and leaving them with no room to grow or connect with the rest of the West Bank. The construction also widens the wedge between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank, preventing Palestinian mobility within their own territories.

Furthermore, Israel argues that its settlement expansion remains within the “Israeli” side of the illegal Separation Wall, which further demonstrates the Israeli government’s real intentions to grab as much land as possible and strengthen its control of the settlement blocs slated for Israeli annexation under a final-status agreement.

According to the Middle East roadmap for peace, Israel agreed to suspend all settlement activity in the Occupied Territories. As usual, Israel twisted the language and applied its own interpretation of the agreement, saying it can build within existing settlements under the argument of natural growth. Israel took its excuses even further, arguing that the peace plan is not currently being implemented and blaming the Palestinian National Authority for not carrying out its promises to stop violence by Palestinian factions. Israel conveniently ignores its own violations and responsibility to adhere to its promises.

Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal under international law, as is stated in the Geneva Conventions, Hague Regulations, Oslo Accords, the internationally-backed roadmap, UN Security Council Resolutions 446 and 465, as well as General Assembly Resolutions 3005 XXVII and 3525A. Israel’s blatant disregard for each of these pillars of international law contradicts basic principles of human rights.

It is time the international community opened its eyes to Israel’s strategic moves to expand its territory and, subsequently, to shrink Palestinian control of Palestinian territories. The pressure on Israel to adhere to its numerous agreements and promises must increase. With an illegal wall, destruction of Palestinian homes, construction and expansion of Israeli settlements, what more is required to realise the Israeli government’s true objectives?

Reprinted from, the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy.

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