When Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas returns from New York with a United Nations decision recognizing a Palestinian state or an observer/non-member nation in his pocket, he will be forced, as always, to land at Jordan's international airport in Amman and travel from there to the Israeli border station on the Hussein (formerly Allenby ) Bridge. Israeli police will examine the cars in his entourage, flip through the passports and VIP documents (if Israel hasn't canceled them as part of its punishment process ) and send them on their way - until the next Israeli army checkpost. The Palestinians are aware that one of the first steps they must take in order for their sovereignty to be worth more than a piece of paper is to establish an international airport.
In light of the struggle being waged by the Israeli government against the granting of even a symbolic expression of Palestinian sovereignty in the West Bank, it's safe to assume that the Palestinian attempt to change reality in the field will run into tough Israeli opposition. Really, now, why are they so hot to change long-standing arrangements? Can't they enjoy the desert landscape from Amman to the Jordan River, as Israel train passengers enjoy the hilly landscape on the way to Jerusalem? Would we dare to make such one-sided short cuts, without asking permission from our neighbors, just in order to save a few minutes travel time? Absolutely! And the proof bears the seal of the Israeli High Court of Justice.
Two weeks ago, the High Court rejected a petition filed by the head of the Beit Iksa council and three residents of this West Bank village against the expropriation of their land for the purpose of laying down track for the fast train from Lod to Jerusalem (of which 6.7 kilometers runs through occupied territory ).
The attorneys for the petitioners, Hosem Yunis and Natur Kamer, argued that building infrastructure in occupied territory, seized temporarily in war, exclusively for the needs of the occupying population (there are no train stations in the West Bank at all ) was a breach of international law. As is well known, the residents of Beit Iksa, like the rest of the inhabitants of the West Bank, do not number among Israel Railways' clientele. However, the government's reply to the petition may teach us that the people sitting in the Attorney General's Office are optimists and seekers of peace in the region.
The office informed the court that at this point in time, several different plans for laying rail tracks in the Palestinian cities of the West Bank were under discussion, and that it would be possible to connect them to the train lines in Israel.
Moreover, at a time when Israel spares no effort to disconnect Gaza from the West Bank, the government promised the High Court that there would be "rail linkage" between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It also said that the plan to establish a rail line from Mevasseret Zion to Ramallah had been discussed and examined by the highest government planning council, and would in future be transmitted to the Palestinian Authority and the special Israeli planning committee in the West Bank - and all of this, of course, "when political and security conditions are ripe."
Why not plan rail lines to Damascus and Baghdad for "when political and security conditions are ripe?"
The officials in the Attorney General's Office apparently believe that expropriating Arab land in order to shorten the ride for Jews will speed up the ripening of these conditions. And just to be sure, the government is prepared for Pviolence: It noted that that the confiscated lands would serve as an escape route, "to preserve the life and safety of train passengers when, among other times, they are situated in Judea and Samaria."
This is not the whim of a junior attorney. In the High Court ruling, Justice Uzi Fogelman, who headed the panel, mentions that the activities of the train are carried out with the approval of the attorney general vis-a-vis the legality of the route in accordance with the standards of international law. The petition, which addressed an important political and legal issue of unparalleled practical significance, was rejected "in light of a delay in submission."
The annexation in practice to Israel of settlements east of the Green Line (1967 border ) has become routine. It is rarer to find a community such as Sheni Livneh, most of which lies within Israeli borders, on a list of settlements. An expert on the settlements, Dror Etkes, discovered its name on the list of those within the jurisdiction of the Hebron Hills council. But it is missing from the official administrative order detailing the list of settlements that belong to each of the regional and local councils in the West Bank. An aerial photo reveals that except for a row of houses in the northernmost section, which spill over the Green Line, the rest of the community lies within Israel.
On the community's Internet site, the Batei Emunah company, which boasts of its activities for "the Jews of Judea and Samaria," offers homes with gardens for NIS 534,000. According to the Web site, most of the residents work at the Dead Sea Works, Soroka Hospital, Intel in Kiryat Gat or in the Omer industrial area. Some work in the community, in agriculture, tourism or the arts.
"If in the past we spoke of a flow of Israelis into the West Bank, now we see how the West Bank is flowing back into Israel," Etkes says, adding: "It turns out that this is not a pollution of the political culture that has developed in the settlements, but a blurring of borders physically and administratively."
The Civil Administration confirms that despite the fact that Sheni Livneh does not belong to the south Hebron Hills regional council, "in practice and by agreement," it receives services from it. And why? "Since it does not belong to any municipal network in Israel."
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