“Consensus” is a popular word in the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement.
describes West Bank settlement blocs that, like the city of 36,000 people,
“everyone knows” will one day be included within the nation’s final
Perched on a hilltop overlooking Route 1 as it stretches toward
the Dead Sea, Ma’aleh Adumim has large apartment buildings, wide paved streets,
a mall with brand-name chain stores and an industrial park.
sandy colored buildings, red rooftops and palm trees, it looks like many other
mid-size Israeli cities.
If anything, residents – who are as likely to
wear a sleeveless top as they are to don a kippa – prefer to think of themselves
as living in an outlying neighborhood of Jerusalem.
Since the city was
created in 1975, every prime minister has promised Ma’aleh Adumim residents
their city’s future is as secure as the nation’s capital, which they help
So it seems to its residents almost as if an accident of
politics and geography had erroneously confused their city with a
Every Israeli map of a future two-state solution – including
Camp David in 2000, Taba in 2001 and Annapolis in 2008 – has included the
built-up area of Ma’aleh Adumim and a large 12,000- dunam tract of land within
the city’s municipal boundaries, commonly known as E1. The municipality calls it
True, the international community has pressured Israel
not to develop E1 for years, ever since plans were first drawn up for 3,500
homes there in 1994 during the tenure of former prime minister Yitzhak
Still, Israelis have been assuaged by reports of tacit American
and Palestinian understandings that Ma’aleh Adumim and E1 would be within
Israel’s final borders.
So, the deluge of harsh international
condemnation that followed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s decision to
advance plans to develop E1 has surprised residents of the city, as well as many
centrist and right-wing Israelis.
Angry Palestinians have stated that
such construction was a “red line,” because without E1, a Palestinian state
within the context of a two-state solution would not possible.
activist Daniel Seidemann has dramatically called it “the fatal heart attack of
the two-state solution.”
The EU, in a statement issued to the UN Security
Council on Wednesday, said such a move would risk cutting off east Jerusalem
from the rest of the West Bank.
Israelis who believe that Palestinians
can have territorial integrity from Ramallah to Jericho, rather than from
Jerusalem, have been puzzled by the dramatic phrasing and what they consider to
be inaccurate statements on the part of those opposing construction in
Netanyahu has dismissed claims regarding the negative impact of
Israeli development on E1 as untrue.
“Unfortunately, if you repeat a
falsehood endlessly, it assumes the cache of truth,” he told the foreign press
during a Hanukka celebration earlier this month.
The issue is less a
geographical one, because anyone can open a map or drive through the area to
observe the reality.
Rather, the division lies much deeper and gets at
the heart of the stalled negotiations.
The Palestinians want a two-state
solution based on the pre-1967 lines. That line is implied, even when they do
not specifically state it.
They might agree to minor territorial
adjustments with land swaps for some of the settlement blocs. But according to
the Palestinians, such changes to the pre-1967 lines do not include leaving
Israeli settlements such as Ma’aleh Adumim in the heart of territory they
In the informal Geneva Initiative of 2001, Palestinians
did agree that Ma’aleh Adumim could remain as a small island, connected by an
artery to Jerusalem. But this did not include E1.
have been quick to point out that the Geneva Initiative was not an official
document and had never been accepted as such.
When Palestinians say that
Israeli actions endanger a two-state solution, they mean, again, along the pre-
When Palestinians speak of contiguous territory, they are not
satisfied with a transportation route, linking two areas, even if it is a quick
and efficient one, absent any checkpoints or barriers.
Israeli plans, now underway, to build a 4- km. bypass road running between E1
and Jerusalem that will allow for straight, speedy travel from Ramallah to
What Palestinians want is physically contiguous territory
beyond that of a transportation corridor, on which they can build and develop
In contrast, when Israelis speak of two states, few
believe that the exact pre- 1967 lines will be the ones dividing them. Netanyahu
has refused to even state that a two-state solution would be based on those
Israelis point to past statements by the US, including in
documents, saying that they have a right to retain the settlement blocs, even if
those areas have never been defined.
Netanyahu, like most Israelis,
includes Ma’aleh Adumim in his definition of a settlement bloc.
also insisted that in any future agreement, a united Jerusalem will remain under
Most Israeli construction of Jewish homes in east
Jerusalem as well as in Ma’aleh Adumim, both in the past and now, is designed to
ensure that the capital remains in Israel’s hands.
But Ma’aleh Adumim is
so ingrained in the Israeli concept of a two-state solution, that even those who
are willing to cede Israeli-Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem to the
Palestinians often believe that in such a solution, Israel will retain control
of the city along with other settlement blocs.
Given the geographical
reality, most Israelis, when they think about it, understand that Palestinian
enclaves, and even maybe some Israeli ones, would have to be linked only by a
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor was quick
to point out last week that if the Palestinians deserved contiguity in a
two-state solution, then so did Israelis.
Speaking to reporters at the UN
headquarters in New York, he held up a map showing that the only way to give
Palestinians contiguous territory between the West Bank and Gaza, was to divide
Israel in two, thereby depriving it of the very thing the Palestinians
Palestinian maps from Taba and Annapolis claim all the land over
the pre-1967 lines running from east Jerusalem down to the Dead Sea, thereby
eliminating all Israeli settlement in that area, including Ma’aleh
The Palestinian vision of the two-state solution based on the
pre-1967 lines involves developing the area from the Palestinian neighborhoods
of east Jerusalem down to Jericho and beyond to the Dead Sea.
the Palestinians want to contiguously develop the area from Ramallah around that
end of Jerusalem, enveloping Jericho and heading in the direction of
Even without E1, when one looks at a map of Jerusalem down to
the Dead Sea, at present, one can see that unless the Palestinians change their
concept or the Israelis agree to evacuate built-up Jewish areas, it is already
impossible to carry out that Palestinian vision without evacuating Israelis
and/or changing the landscape of the developed areas.
The map is almost a
checkerboard of Israeli and Palestinian communities.
There is west
Jerusalem, then east Jerusalem with its Israeli and Palestinian neighborhoods,
then Palestinian neighborhoods outside of the city, then Ma’aleh Adumim, and the
unbuilt area of E1, followed by more settlements, and then the Palestinian city
Physically, the area is cut in half by a highway, Route 1,
which travelers to the Dead Sea know well.
Outside Jerusalem’s municipal
boundaries, Palestinians and Israelis use Route 1 to connect to their
communities, or other regions in Israel and the Palestinian
There is also the issue of the security barrier, which, like
the road, physically divides Palestinian neighborhoods in east Jerusalem from
those located just outside the municipal boundaries.
At present, it would
be impossible to walk in a direct line because the area is so cluttered by
Palestinian and Israeli enclaves.
But Israelis and Palestinians can
traverse it through a system of roads that are not always so direct.
most obvious Palestinian enclaves are divided into four parts, two Israeli-Arab
neighborhoods inside Jerusalem’s municipal lines and another two outside, making
for an almost foursquare pattern.
In the first enclave inside Jerusalem
are Israeli-Arab neighborhoods such Silwan, Ras el-Amud, Wadi Joz and Ash
In the second enclave outside of Jerusalem lie the Palestinian
areas of Abu Dis and Eizariya. Both of them are on one side of Route 1, followed
immediately by Ma’aleh Adumim and a small section of E1.
In the third
enclave, on the other side of the road, inside Jerusalem, next to French Hill
and Mount Scopus, is the Palestinian neighborhood of Isawiya, which also extends
outside the city limits.
After that, in almost a small bubble between the
wall, Route 1 and E1, is the Palestinian area of Az Za-Ayem.
Palestinians speak of east Jerusalem as their capital, they imagine developing
those enclaves, and expanding them by building in a straight line through E1,
including areas beyond it, which now host settlements such as Kfar Adumim, and
For Palestinians to enact that vision and to leave Ma’aleh
Adumim where it is, would make the Jewish city a small island in a Palestinian
Developing E1 would make such a Palestinian development line
impossible, and have the opposite effect.
It would transform the
Israeli-Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem and the Palestinian areas outside it
into a bubble within the larger Israeli communities.
When Israelis talk
of keeping Ma’aleh Adumim with E1 and joining it with Jerusalem, they envision
both areas as linking directly with the capital in a plan that would keep those
Israeli-Arab neighborhoods as part of Jerusalem.
they argue, can happen on either side of the enclave, and can be attached by a
transportation system that would be faster than what exists now.
Palestinians argue that the best tract of land for development is E1, which is
held by the Israelis.
When the Palestinians turned to the UN last month
and asked that it upgrade their status, it was part of their strategy to force
the Israelis to the pre-1967 lines.
When Netanyahu announces building in
E1, and other key areas in and outside of Jerusalem, it is part of his strategy
to ensure that Israel holds onto territory over those lines, which it considers