After lengthy delays, the Israel Lands Authority on Sunday issued a request for bids to build 1,257 homes on Givat Hamatos in Jerusalem. Construction on Givat Hamatos had for many years been a red flag in the eyes of the U.S. administration and European governments, because it would make it much more difficult to divide Jerusalem between Israel and a prospective Palestinian state.
Even during the four years in which U.S. President Donald Trump, a friend of the settlement enterprise, occupied the White House, Israel resisted building there. Until now. A moment before Joe Biden becomes president of the United States, the Israeli government is rushing to advance the plan – a kind of end-of-Trump season sale.
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The president-elect and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have a bitter history with regard to construction beyond the Green Line. In 2010 there was a serious diplomatic incident, when during a visit by then-Vice President Biden, the Jerusalem District Planning Commission approved the construction of a new neighborhood beyond the Green Line. The incident led to a serious crisis in the relations between the Obama administration and the Israeli government, and to a lengthy construction freeze in East Jerusalem and the settlements.
A smart government, one that has the good of its citizens in mind and assumes responsibility for their future, would suspend construction on Givat Hamatos and in other settlements and seek to establish ties with Biden administration officials, so as to facilitate the renewal of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. But not Netanyahu’s government. Netanyahu is taking a different approach; it would prefer to buy cheaply now, but to pay dearly afterward.
Of course, he’s not the one who’ll bear the cost. The price, as usual, will be paid by future generations. Netanyahu presents the issue as a diplomatic disagreement, and not as a problem that affects the future of Israeli citizens. During the Trump and Netanyahu years the division of Jerusalem and the problem of building over the Green Line was erased from the public, political and media discourse in Israel. Anyone who dared to argue against such construction encountered contempt and ridicule.
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But every Israeli citizen must know that in his capital there live hundreds of thousands of people who are not citizens because Israel doesn’t want them to be. Every citizen also ought to know that without some kind of division of Jerusalem there is no possibility of dividing the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Without such a division, the government is sentencing its citizens to life in a binational state, a state in which they will have to choose between an apartheid regime and a state without a Jewish and Zionist identity. There is no third way.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.