Analysis / Israel completing capital's borders with walls
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership were very pleased with the results of the first summit meeting between Abbas and U.S. President George Bush.
Their satisfaction derived, among other things, from one of Bush's key statements: "Israel should not undertake any activity that contravenes road map obligations or prejudices final status negotiations with regard to Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem."
As far as Gaza is concerned, Bush's statements were superfluous, Palestinian spokespeople said over the weekend. After all, Israel intends to withdraw from Gaza completely. As for the West Bank, Israel has for years been establishing faits accomplis that affect the final status. They have already won partial American recognition of the settlement blocs.
Bush's statement was perhaps most important vis-a-vis Jerusalem. "The statements about Jerusalem are worthless," said one Palestinian commentator, noting that Bush was attempting, not even seriously, to close the stable doors after the horses have fled. He meant that after building Jewish neighborhoods in and around East Jerusalem, with more than 250,000 residents today, Israel has already fixed faits accomplis in the city borders, by completing the walls and separation fences.
There is hardly a single Palestinian who does not know what is being done on the borders of East Jerusalem. In Qalandiyah in the north of the city, and at the entrance to Bethlehem in its south, large-scale construction of terminals, perhaps the biggest in the world, is in full swing. The terminals will complete the borders of the greater Jerusalem, which are already entirely lined by giant walls, fences and electronic devices. Tens of thousands of Palestinians with Israeli identity cards will be left beyond the walls. In other words, Israel has already fixed the facts on the ground in East Jerusalem.
For the Palestinians, Jerusalem is the Old City and Al-Aqsa. Without them, there will be no Palestinian capital or Palestinian state. The Palestinian public response to Bush's statement was therefore more reserved than that of its leaders. The Hamas response was stern and hostile. Hamas saw Bush's praise of Abbas as blatant intervention in internal Palestinian affairs.