Feb 28 2016

The E1 test

Published by at 1:53 pm under Articles,Palestinian politics

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By Daoud Kuttab

In the battle of wills between Israel and the international community there comes a time and a place where this will is tested.

The Israeli occupation and colonisation of Palestine is a creeping endeavour largely built on the attempt to wear out the other side and create facts on the ground.

The Israeli game plan is based on the idea of making its presence in the entire historic land of Palestine (which it calls Eretz Yisrael) so permanent that Palestinians would simply give up on their dream and right of independence on their national soil.

The international community, which has largely given lip service to the two-state solution, understands now more than ever that it is simply not enough to make declarations and repeat its opposition to Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.

The time has come to draw a line in the sand and insist that enough is enough.

Israel’s lust for Palestinian land has no limits and this appetite to take over land and turn it into exclusive Jewish colonies is seen now, more than ever, by the world for what it is: unbridled, ugly, land theft.

Landgrab and illegal building of houses in occupied areas, meant to exclusively house Jewish citizens of Israel, also have a much more sinister, long-term goal. It is aimed at permanently denying the Palestinian aspiration for statehood, with the hidden hope that once Palestinians lose hope, they will simply emigrate and leave their lands to make room for a state of Israel expanding from the sea to the river.

Nowhere is this goal more obvious than in the area east of East Jerusalem commonly known as E1. This 12-kilometre stretch of land is the latest focus of Israeli aggression and, naturally, it is where Palestinians are hoping to put a stop to Israel’s illegal aspirations.

Last week, Palestinian officials from the PLO’s negotiation department took a group of diplomats, international NGOs and journalists on a tour of this area. They met local bedouins who had been displaced three times since 1948 and who are being threatened with house demolitions and expulsion.

Part of the aim of the tour was the attempt to explain to the international community the long-term goals of this particular landgrab.

Situated in the strategic area that connects the north of the West Bank with the south, the land in this area is supposed to provide the needed highways connecting Ramallah with Bethlehem.

While traditionally these two West Bank cities were connected through Jerusalem, Israel’s wall and its administrative total ban on the entry of any Palestinian vehicle to Jerusalem has forced Palestinians to take a very difficult and dangerous roundabout road called Wadi Nar. A much safer and logical route would necessarily cut through the largely underdeveloped Area E1.

Israel has been using the last year of US President Barak Obama’s presidency, and the fact that the world attention is diverted to Syria, Libya and Yemen to push ahead with this controversial settlement, hoping that the world community will not make a big fuss about it.

The Israeli game plan regarding E1 has been going on for some time, but it has escalated of late.

In 2013, under international pressure, Israel was forced to suspend its settlement expansion, but it appears to have gone back to its old practice.  The Israeli settlement watchdog group Peace Now revealed in late December that Israel’s ministry of housing was planning to build 55,548 new houses in the West Bank, including 8,372 in E1. The information followed a legal battle under the access to information law. 

The Israeli daily Haaretz reported that in the past two years, 200 makeshift houses, which included houses donated by the European Union, were destroyed, leaving 173 Palestinians, including children, homeless.

Three days after the February 18 visit by international diplomats to Jabal Al Bab, Israel security forces came to the area at 4am and demolished several Palestinian houses, displacing 17 Palestinians, among them children.

The line drawn east of Jerusalem is now clear. The pressure is on to ensure that the world community says what it means and means what it says.

As the French government prepares for an international conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict next July, it is critical that Israelis be not allowed to create further colonial facts on the ground that make a two-state solution impossible.

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