Editorial

A City Without Borders

Netanyahu must act now to stop the new construction plan that will cut off Ramallah from East Jerusalem

Israeli Border Police checking the ID of a Palestinian woman next to newly placed concrete blocks in an East Jerusalem neighborhood, October 2015.
Israeli Border Police check the ID of a Palestinian woman next to concrete blocks in an East Jerusalem neighborhood, October 2015. AP

The map of Jerusalem, including the territory annexed to Israel in violation of international law, depicts a territorially defined city with clear boundaries. But this cartographic picture can’t conceal the fault lines that cut through this municipal space, which is very far from being a model of urban cohesiveness. Israel’s capital city is a demonstration of political power, which not only imposes itself on the city’s Arab residents, but also serves as violent leverage with which to thwart any diplomatic solution, sabotage the chances of implementing a two-state solution and plant mines on the territory of the future Palestinian state.

The latest demonstration of this intent to dominate Jerusalem is a plan to build a new neighborhood to the city’s northeast. Ostensibly, this neighborhood is meant to ease the housing shortage, but in practice it will divide the city from the Palestinian communities to its east, and thereby prevent the needed territorial contiguity between these communities and Ramallah.

The new neighborhood, which will contain 1,100 homes, will link the neighborhood of Neveh Yaakov with the settlement of Geva Binyamin. But it will be defined as part of Geva Binyamin, which is on the Palestinian side of the separation fence. By so doing, it will effectively turn Geva Binyamin into a branch of Jerusalem, thereby making it easier in the future to annex it to the city’s area of jurisdiction.

This plan was discussed back in 2004, and according to Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank, the Housing Ministry hasn’t submitted any updated plan since. Thus its announcement by the ministry now arouses suspicions that it’s meant to serve the political ambitions of Housing Minister Yoav Galant by paving his path to the Likud party. Yet precisely because it’s liable to serve as a political dowry, it must be taken seriously, given its potential to tear open another loose seam in Israel’s relations with the international community.

Galant claimed that “Israeli territorial contiguity from Gush Etzion in the south to Atarot in the north is of special security importance.” Based on similarly nonsensical arguments, previous Israeli governments promoted the construction of dozens of settlements that have become an enormous security burden. Thus, amid all his other tasks and concerns, the prime minister must now undertake the following mission: Stop this plan and don’t allow Galant’s ambitions, or those of other ministers, to lead Israel into this firing line.