A New Consensus

Since when has the size of the settlements determined their moral and legal standing? Whoever votes for one of the large parties must know he is casting his ballot for annexation.

A new consensus has stumbled unannounced into the Israeli narrative, going by the name of "settlement blocs."

While pundits and opinion polls indicate a seeming shift leftward, with a majority for the establishment of a Palestinian state and evacuation of settlements, the real political map has taken a sharp turn to the right.

The three large parties' platforms - Kadima, Labor and the Likud, seemingly center, left and right - are completely united in their agreement about keeping the large settlements in Israel's hands. Even the Geneva plan, which is seen as "radical," leaves Ma'aleh Adumim inside Israel.

Suddenly, we have woken to a new consensus. It is not clear how this right-wing consensus was established. Once there was a consensus over Jerusalem - now it has spread to half the West Bank - yet it's called "a move to the left."

Israelis have in fact moved to a position of "give peace no chance" - saying no to a just agreement, no to a Palestinian state. Since when has the size of the settlements determined their moral and legal standing? Whoever votes for one of the large parties must know he is casting his ballot for annexation.

Anyone fluctuating among the three should know this is a false indecision. Regarding the peace process and Palestinians, there is no difference among them. The self-congratulation over the end of the Greater Israel vision is groundless. So is the idea that Israelis are fed up with the occupation and wish for a just agreement. The large settlement blocs will foil any such chance. A dissected West Bank will never become an independent Palestinian state. This is exactly why the "settlement blocs" were built.

The most radical and dangerous settlement in the West Bank is Ma'aleh Adumim. Not Yitzhar and Tapuach, not Itamar or Havat Maon, but the town destined to be connected to Jerusalem and become the capital's largest sleeping suburb. Its residents are among the most immoral settlers in the West Bank. Their settlement was built on private land confiscated from Abu Dis, Anata, Azariya, A-Tur and Isawiya, and was declared "state land" in a dubious legal procedure intended to sever the north of the West Bank from its south.

Ma'aleh Adumim is the settlement that has caused the most extensive deportation of residents from their homes - the Jahalin tribe, whose people are now forced to live in the Abu Dis garbage dump. This is a patent violation of international justice, which prohibits the transfer of residents in occupied territories.

The recent decision to build a police station in the E-1 zone joining Ma'aleh Adumim and Jerusalem declares the absolute end of the chance of an agreement. After the police station the town will grow, completely strangulating the West Bank. There is nothing more certain than the forecast that the West Bank police headquarters to be built in E-1 will be followed by 3,200 housing units, with a tourism region between Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim all forming one territorial contiguity.

Kadima, the "center" party, which engraved on its banner the attempt to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, or at least to evacuate settlements unilaterally, is acting to deepen and perpetuate the occupation. Soon the United States too will remove its objection to building the housing units, just as it laundered the plan to build "only" the police headquarters - and Ma'aleh Adumim will become an inseparable part of the eternal capital.

With this fraud Ma'aleh Adumim was established. It started out as a seemingly innocent temporary camp set up in 1975 for 23 families. Thirty years later it has become a huge settlement of 32,000 residents, whose municipal area is larger than Tel Aviv's - 50,553 dunams for the big city and 53,000 dunams for the consensus settlement.

A B'Tselem report released in 1999 says Ma'aleh Adumim has 2,120 square meters per capita in contrast to 76 square meters in Abu Dis across the way. The latter was built generations before Ma'aleh Adumim and its land was usurped and given to that settlement. Is this not quite clearly an outrageous injustice?

The new Israeli consensus also says yes to the perpetuation of Gush Etzion and Ariel; the Jordan Valley has been sanctified long ago; the gigantic neighborhoods in the occupied part of Jerusalem are not even up for discussion. From Likud to Labor, a unanimous choir is saying yes to the settlement project while columnist eulogize it.

Those who say the "Greater Israel vision" has given way to "dividing the land" are deceiving the country and the world. So are those who airily assert that Israelis now recognize the need to end the occupation. The truth is much worse: The Israeli discourse continues to foster the most deeply rooted national aspiration - to have the cake and eat it.

If Israeli society were more honest with itself it would have said the truth: the absolute majority of Israelis do not want just peace with the Palestinians, do not think they are entitled to a state of their own and do not see them as equal human beings. That's what we are and such is our wish for peace.