From today’s Ha’aretz:
Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu has struck a secret deal with Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman for highly contentious construction on West Bank land known as E1, Army Radio reported Wednesday.
While this might not seem like major news to some, this report, if true, would be devastating to the peace process (such as it is…) In fact, settling E1 might well constitute the final nail in the coffin of the two state solution.
“E1” stands for East 1 – it is the administrative title given to the area east of Jerusalem and west of the West Bank development Ma’ale Adumim (see map above). Israeli settlement monitors such as Ir Amim and Peace Now have long cautioned against the dire consequences of settling this critical strip of land:
Construction of E-1 would jeopardize the hopes for a two-state solution. It would, by design, block off the narrow undeveloped land corridor which runs east of Jerusalem and which is necessary for any meaningful future connection between the southern and the northern parts of the West Bank. It would thus break the West Bank into two parts – north and south. It would also sever access to East Jerusalem for Palestinians in the West Bank, and sever access to the West Bank for Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. Both of these situations are antithetical to the achievement of any real, durable peace agreement and the establishment of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state.
The expansion of Ma’ale Adumim, as with the expansion of any other settlement, is a unilateral act which undermines and jeopardizes efforts to resume negotiations which are based on the principal of two states living side by side with peace and security.
It’s not such a stretch to imagine Netanyahu blithely giving E1 away to Lieberman as a political bargaining chip – he’s been hankering after this piece of earth of some time now. In fact, back in 2005 he choose a barren hilltop in E1 upon which to announce his candidacy for Prime Minister. This is what he had to say at the time:
This is Jerusalem, it’s our capital…Nobody can tell us to freeze building in our capital. What we need to do is to break this siege by building here.
You can see all of E1 quite easily from the top of Mt. Scopus. It’s beyond sobering to think the fate of the peace process might well hand upon a mere 12 square kilometers.
Trust me, this will be one to follow…
PS: Click here to send a letter to Secretary of State Clinton to ask her to make a settlement freeze a necessary part of the peace process going forward.