The highway robbery of Palestinians in Area C
A wrong and winding road east of Bethlehem exemplifies Israel's twisted priorities in Area C.
Two weeks ago I reported here on the state's campaign against Palestinian residents in the southern Hebron Hills who, unfortunately for them, happened to fall within or, more accurately, were imprisoned in Area C, which is under Israeli control. I told of Civil Administration officials who destroyed a tin hut and sheep pen in the village of Tha'lah, and of injunctions against the operation of solar panels and wind turbines.
Two days later, the residents of the nearby village of Jinba summoned their lawyer, Shlomo Lecker. They said Civil Administration officials had presented them with demolition orders for the awnings that provide shade for residents and their sheep, and a few toilets built with donations from the Anglican Church.
The Civil Administration officials did not even grant the Jinba residents seven days to appeal, as the state prosecutor's office had agreed to in a letter to Lecker five years previously. They settled for three days, including Friday and Saturday. Civil Administration officials say the structures were built without permits. That is true. Since the area is designated a "firing zone," it is impossible to obtain a building permit there, even for a dovecote.
The coordinator of activities in the territories stated in response: "This is a firing zone and within a closed area, where building is illegal, and steps were taken to enforce the regulations. The construction is a violation of an interim order prohibiting any change in the status of the area. Our actions are being done in coordination with the state authorities and correspond to its commitments."
According to the agreement with the Palestinians, Israel is responsible for all civil affairs in Area C, not just for selective law enforcement against the Palestinians. Israel is also meant to develop infrastructure for all residents - around 300,000 Jewish residents and 150,000 Palestinians. Here is an example of how this equality is carried out in practice: A year ago, the Israeli taxpayer paid to repave one of the winding roads east of Bethlehem. The work halted at the gate of the small community of Ma'aleh Amos (63 families ). The eastern section of the road, which leads to Bedouin settlements, remained in the same poor condition as it was, until government agency USAID decided to complete what was missing. So the American taxpayer is contributing to the maintenance of the road and the occupation in the territories, and Israel is left with money to plan a rail network across the length and breadth of the West Bank.
Deaf at the top
The One Voice movement, which is active on both sides of the Green Line and seeks to promote the two-state solution, recently formed a lobby of Knesset members who support the idea. The lobby is headed by Amir Peretz (Labor ) and Yoel Hasson (Kadima ), along with Dov Khenin of Hadash, the three Meretz Knesset members and even Yitzhak Vaknin and David Azoulay of Shas. The lobby includes 15 Knesset members from Kadima and seven of the eight Labor party Knesset members.
And who is not in it? Shelly Yachimovich. To those asking her why she is not part of the political dialogue, she repeats her mantra, "Before we deal with the borders of the state, we have to make sure there is a state." In other words, the struggle for social justice takes precedence over the fight to halt the efforts to end Israel's chances to continue as a democratic and Jewish state. Yachimovich did not comment and waived the public's right to know the reasons for her decision to turn down the invitation to join the lobby.
Anyone who knows anything about Yachimovich's position on the Iranian nuclear issue is asked to report to the nearest Labor party branch. President Shimon Peres, who held the same position in the party lest we forget, the father of the Dimona nuclear reactor, is also careful to remain vague. According to a Haaretz report by Yossi Verter, Peres planned to ask U.S. President Barack Obama to get the prime minister to drop the military option. Peres got a cold shower from Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who recalled Peres' opposition to the strike on the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq (without mentioning that both the Mossad chief and head of military intelligence at the time also opposed the operation ).
In his testimony before the Winograd Commission (which investigated the Second Lebanon War ), Peres, who was a member of the diplomatic-security cabinet, said he was opposed in principle to going to war, but voted for it because he did not want to harm the prime minister's authority and the stability of the government and the coalition during a time of war. Is it possible that this time as well, he is worried about the prime minister's authority and the stability of the coalition, and thinks making condolence calls will suffice?
Sealed lips at the top
Dr. Howard Somka, until not long ago the head of the United States Agency for International Development office for the Middle East, visited here in February. Recently Somka was appointed head of the One Voice movement. In a series of meetings he held in the territories, Somka formed an impression of the increasing despair with this idea and the increasing support among the Palestinian population for a binational state. He tells of an extensive campaign led by Palestinian political figures, academics and intellectuals under the slogan "One democratic state for 5 million Arabs and 6 million Jews."
Somka has shared his concerns with Minister without portfolio Dan Meridor and has asked him to transmit the message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "This visit has helped me understand the importance of creating pressure in Israel and in the Palestinian Authority concerning the urgency for the advancement of a two-state solution, before the reality leads us to the point of no return," says Somka.
According to him, the One Voice team in Ramallah will focus its efforts on an information campaign to persuade the public in the territories that an agreement on two states along the 1967 lines and an end to the demands on both sides is the preferred solution. The Tel Aviv team is ratcheting up the pressure on the political level to conduct the negotiations seriously and with goodwill.
Tal Harris, the executive director of One Voice Israel, and Samer Makhlouf, the executive director of the movement in the territories, sent a joint letter last week to United States President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on the eve of their meeting in Washington. "The freeze in negotiations and its attendant antipathy has encouraged the rise of a new type of Jewish and Muslim fundamentalism, one violently opposed to the two-state solution, which due to your neglect is under severe pressure," wrote the two, and added: "Our way may be criticized for naivety, but a strategic discussion of the Iranian problem which overlooks the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is utter madness, and of great danger to all of the people in this region."
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