Settlement Tightens the Noose on Jerusalem

As opposed to the conventional wisdom in Israel, namely that the leaderships of the PLO, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority are exclusively engaged in internal squabbling, in recent days they have in fact been considering the issue of whether the two-state solution could even be implemented at this time.

As opposed to the conventional wisdom in Israel, namely that the leaderships of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority are exclusively engaged in internal squabbling, in recent days they have in fact been considering the issue of whether the two-state solution - the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel - could even be implemented at this time.

The PLO's Negotiations Affairs Department, which is headed by Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), has raised the question of whether Israel's construction policies in the settlements in general and in Jerusalem in particular have not in effect shattered the previous framework for peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, obliging the sides to replace it with a more suitable framework.

Abu Mazen's department is now putting the finishing touches on a document that summarizes Israeli's construction activities, especially in the West Bank territories around Jerusalem, and in the eastern part of the city. The document also considers the implications of the new separation fence that is now going up. For its data, the framers of the document relied on readily available information that has appeared in the Israel press, or has been supplied by the Peace Now movement and the B'Tselem organization. The document is entitled "Israel's Pre-emption of a Viable Two State Solution." Appended to it is a separate chapter that considers the economic, social and political implications of Israeli construction policies in East Jerusalem.

In this spirit, Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad, who is currently in Washington, cautioned his American counterparts that Israeli settlement policies are liable to frustrate the implementation of a solution based on establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. This was reported yesterday by sources in the PLO negotiations department. Fayyad left Sunday for conversations with senior U.S. figures on diplomatic and financial matters. He took with him a series of maps, as well as the document whose main points are described below.

Fayyad is considered an "American appointment" to the new Palestinian cabinet that was named in early June under international pressure to carry out reforms in the Palestinian government. Fayyad, a Tul Karm-born economist, served for years as a senior International Monetary Fund official. He has been the IMF's representative in the Palestinian Authority ever since the PA's establishment. In the few months since his appointment to the cabinet, Authority sources say that Fayyad has succeeded in making sure that Palestinian Authority's scant revenues are deposited in a single bank account (instead of several different accounts); has put an end to the never-ending deviations from the budget that were the result of the checks that Yasser Arafat would hand out to anyone who asked; has initiated the process of breaking up the PA's commercial monopolies; has established standards for transparency in the budget and in the ministries of the Authority; and has caused Israeli finance minister Silvan Shalom to transfer some of the tax revenues that Israel has owed the Palestinian Authority for two years.

Even when the Palestinian Legislative Council caused the new cabinet to resign, saying the cabinet had not complied with the requirements of the reform, its members underscored their great appreciation for Fayyad's professionalism. Three weeks ago, he also had an opportunity to show his patriotic backbone. Fayyad was attending a routine meeting with Yasser Arafat when IDF tanks laid siege to the Muqata and began destroying the compound. He could have left, in coordination with the Israeli authorities, but opted to remain with Arafat and the others, and from the besieged office continued to conduct conference calls on financial matters with representatives of the contributor countries that are partners in the reform program.

De-facto apartheid

The document that Abu Mazen's department has been drafting for the past month calls the settlements "colonies" and warns, "If the international community continues to remain unwilling to reign in Israeli colony construction and expansion, irreversible `facts on the ground' and the de facto apartheid system, such facts create will force Palestinian policy makers to re-evaluate the plausibility of a two-state solution."

According to the document, Israeli construction in the West Bank in general and in the area of Jerusalem in particular would leave the Palestinians with chances for a "state" in name only, that would more closely resemble an Indian reservation in the United States, with limited access to water and land. This is the opinion of the document's authors - a team of legal scholars, academics and geographers who have been working in the framework of what is called the "Jerusalem task force" for the past two years.

Israel has exploited the opportunity afforded by the conflict to expand in three directions, through its construction and settlement policies in Jerusalem. These trends originated long before the outbreak of the intifada: closing off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank; for all intents and purposes cutting off the northern West Bank from the southern West Bank; and the prevention of any opportunity for Palestinian urban development, partly by means of expanding construction in the settlements of the West Bank in general, and in Jerusalem in particular.

According to the document, the Jerusalem metropolitan area that is now coming into being - through a network of outer and inner roads, outer and inner separation fences, the route of the light railway system and an accelerated wave of construction that is linking together Israeli settlements - will extend over an area of 440 square kilometers, of which only 25 percent lie in West Jerusalem, with the remainder in territory occupied in 1967.

This construction, which links Israeli settlements to Jerusalem, blocks the development options of the future capital of the promised Palestinian state, cuts off Palestinian settlements from one another and from East Jerusalem, and ensures continued Israeli control in widespread areas of the West Bank, through Israel's control of the roads.

Construction in southwest Jerusalem, which is closing in on Bethlehem and its sister cities of Beit Sahour and Beit Jala and the villages in the area, will deny them the opportunity of natural growth, and cut them off from both Jerusalem and the southern West Bank.

The document states that this is being perpetrated by means of the expansion of Gush Etzion (including the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Beitar Illit), which can expand up to two-and-a-half times its current size, through construction at Har Homa and the settlements along its flanks - Givat Hamatos and Givat Ha'arbaa, which is planned for the area south of Har Homa, and by means of paving the Zaatra-Beit Sahour road that would directly link eastern Gush Etzion (the settlement of Tekoa) with Har Homa.

In East Jerusalem, the document's authors cite the E-1 plan that would expand the Adumim settlement bloc, creating a contiguous territorial belt of settlement between Maale Adumim, Pisgat Ze'ev and French Hill. This would "consolidate Israeli control over key transportation junctions for all the roads connecting the northern West Bank to the south including the vital eastern ring road..." The same would happen with the east-west roads that link the Jordan rift in the east to western Israel. This E-1 expansion plan, which has already led to some expropriation of lands of surrounding Palestinian villages, "will also foreclose any possibility of Palestinian economic and urban development in the largest area of non-developed land near Occupied East Jerusalem, effectively destroying any prospects of meaningful Palestinian presence in Greater Jerusalem."

As opposed to the southern and eastern gates of the capital, in which - according to the document - all it will take is a single bloc of settlements to functionally partition the eastern part of the city from its surroundings, the continuum of Palestinian construction, albeit thin, between Shuafat and Ramallah compelled Israel to build two settlement blocs along the outer rim of the city's northern gate. They are the Givon bloc that lies northwest of Givat Ze'ev, and includes Givon, Givon Hahadasha, Givat Shmuel and Har Adar; and the Binyamin bloc, which comprises Adam, the Sha'ar Binyamin industrial zone, Psagot, Tel Zion and Kochav Yaakov in the northeast.

There are three highways running east-west and north-south that are now being completed and expanded, which link these two Israeli settlement blocs to one another, to other settlement blocs in the West Bank, to western Jerusalem, and to Tel Aviv. These roads also happen to break up the continuum of Palestinian communities in the region, separating them from one another, disconnecting them from Ramallah and Jerusalem, and preventing their development. Examples include Jaba and Hizma in the east, and Sheikh Jarrah, Beit Hanina, Shuafat, A-Ram and Bir Naballah in the west, as well as the western villages of Bidu, Katana and Beit Iqsa.

The document states that as opposed to ring roads in other cities of the world, which are intended to ease traffic around densely populated areas, the ring road in Jerusalem is "intended to tighten Israeli control over Jerusalem." The ring road is designed to link "the southern colonies" - Tekoa and Har Homa - with "the northern colonies" and simultaneously divert Palestinian traffic far from the city center.

"The `security' wall," reports the document, "will be three times as long as the Berlin Wall, and at points, twice as high," and will in its initial stage lead to the de-facto annexation of 3-5 percent of West Bank territory to Israel. With its erection in East Jerusalem, an additional 3 percent of West Bank territory will be annexed to Israel, with a total of 90,000 Palestinians who are not residents of Israel finding themselves living between the fence and the Green Line.

The longstanding Israeli policy of discrimination on the allocation of budgets and land reserves is turning the Palestinian territory in Jerusalem proper into slums that are isolated from one another, states the chapter about the implications of Israeli construction in East Jerusalem for the Palestinian population. These slums are denied open land tracts for future population growth and economic and commercial growth.

The document predicts an exacerbation of population density in these slums, which will be fertile ground for poverty and disease. The Israeli construction policies in Jerusalem and in the northern and southern West Bank, spoils any possibility of leaving Jerusalem as an open city shared by two peoples and two states. The document concludes by cautioning that unless Israel leaves territorial continuity in the Palestinians' hands, "the only remaining option is for the Palestinians to accept a one-state, two nations solution." However, this will not be accepted by Israel because of Palestinian demographic superiority that threatens the Jewish state, say the authors of the document.

They conclude with the hope that Israeli fears about Palestinian demographic growth "might `push' the Israelis to reconsider their settlement policies and perhaps accept division of the city," and at the last moment come to their senses and accept the two-state solution.