Ma’ale Adumim Wall and E-1 construction
August 31, 2005
A day after the evacuation of 8,500 illegal settlers from Gaza was completed, the Israeli Justice Ministry announced that Israel has issued orders to confiscate Palestinian lands east of Jerusalem to build the Wall along a route that will annex the largest illegal West Bank settlement and its 30,000 residents to Israel.
Israeli authorities have also announced that while approximately 8,500 settlers have been evicted from Palestinian lands due to the disengagement, more than 12,800 new settlers have moved to the West Bank since the disengagement was announced last year. New settlement construction continues at a rapid pace and new settlers continue to move in.
The illegal settlement of Ma’ale Adumim east of Jerusalem, home to 30,000 settlers, is one of the most contentious blocks in the road to peace. Israel’s plan to annex it along with 65 square kilometers of Palestinian land will sever the north-south contiguity of the West Bank, isolate Palestinian East Jerusalem from the West Bank completely, and render the notion of a peaceful two-state solution impossible.
In an ultra-Orthodox newspaper last week, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced his plans to defy America and the international community with additional settlement building that will prejudice final status issues:
“The Americans have often asked us to sketch out the boundaries of the large settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank], and we have refrained from doing so in the hope that by the time the discussion on the settlement blocs comes, these blocs will contain a very large number of settlements and residents.”
The Israeli government also stated publicly that the Gaza redeployment was a tactical move designed to strengthen Israel’s illegal stranglehold over vast and vital areas of the West Bank. The Gaza disengagement has indeed drawn attention away from the critical battle for the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
However, the Gaza Strip represents only 6% of the territory Israel illegally occupies and 2% of the settlers living illegally on Palestinian lands. Israel’s continuing to build the Apartheid Wall, expand settlements, carve the West Bank into ghettoes, and perpetrate violent illegal attacks against Palestinians in civilian areas is destroying the road to peace, and the trust between the two sides, much more quickly than the disengagement has helped to build it.
Confiscating land around Ma’ale Adumim will directly affect tens of thousands of Palestinians living near the route of the Wall. It will surround and ghettoize several Palestinian communities such as Za’im and Azariya. Bedouin families who have grazed there for centuries will have their ancestral lands sliced away from them. The ancient road from Jerusalem to Jericho will be cut, and travel between the northern West Bank and the southern West Bank will be made difficult if not impossible. Most politically damaging, the Wall here will sever the link between East Jerusalem, which the international community recognizes as the capital of the future Palestinian state, and the rest of the West Bank.
Israeli officials say they plan to build a bypass road connecting the north and south of the West Bank, but this is unacceptable as it does not mitigate the loss of land and can be closed at any time at the whim of the army. Palestinians know from long experience that Israeli closures are often arbitrary and can last for indefinite periods, contributing to the constant uncertainty that has devastated Palestine’s economy and social fabric. It would also be a direct violation of Palestinian sovereignty over their own land in any future state. It would merely be a fig leaf for an unacceptable, illegal policy.
The United States issued a statement saying the barrier “is a problem to the extent that it prejudges final borders, confiscates Palestinian property or imposes further hardship on the Palestinian people.” The Ma’ale Adumim Wall is a prime example of how the Wall aims to do all three.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said repeatedly that Ma’ale Adumim and the land around it, and by extension Palestinian East Jerusalem, will remain a part of Israel even after a final peace accord with the Palestinians. Sharon has also made plans to build 3,500 new housing units in area E-1, a large tract of undeveloped land which lies between Ma’ale Adumim and Palestinian East Jerusalem, a further move to isolate East Jerusalem and make it impossible for it to be the Palestinian capital.
These plans are currently only in the planning stages due to American pressure. But a new “Judea and Samaria” police station is being built in E-1, after which the old building, located in the Ras al-Amoud neighborhood in the heart of East Jerusalem, will be turned over to settlers.
The international community does not recognize Israel’s claims to Arab East Jerusalem or to Ma’ale Adumim and the land around it. Israel can only legally cede land from the Palestinian territories if it does so in the context of fair negotiations with Palestinian representatives based on international law. Israel’s provocations right after the disengagement, including the assassination of five Palestinians in a public area in Tulkarem by an Israeli assassination squad, will make it much more difficult for substantive peace negotiations to begin.
Without a negotiated solution based on international law, peace will be impossible. If Sharon continues to prejudice final status issues with illegal land grabs and settlement expansion, a negotiated solution based on international law will be impossible.
Israel must show itself to be a true partner for peace if it wishes to save countless innocent lives. If it continues to violently impose unacceptable solutions with no regard for justice or respect for the rights of Palestinians, continued bloodshed will be the likely result.