Analysis: In the eye of the beholder

Israeli and Palestinian visions of a two-state solution collide when it comes to construction in the E1 corridor.

E1 area linking Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim 370 (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
E1 area linking Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim 370
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
“Consensus” is a popular word in the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement.
It 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 borders.
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.
With its 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 safeguard.
So it seems to its residents almost as if an accident of politics and geography had erroneously confused their city with a settlement.
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 Mevaseret Adumim.
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 Rabin.
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.
Left-wing 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 E1.
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 consider theirs.
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.
Palestinian officials 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- 1967 lines.
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.
They dismiss 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 Bethlehem.
What Palestinians want is physically contiguous territory beyond that of a transportation corridor, on which they can build and develop their communities.
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 lines.
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.
He has also insisted that in any future agreement, a united Jerusalem will remain under Israeli sovereignty.
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 transportation route.
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 sought.
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 Adumim.
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.
Similarly, the Palestinians want to contiguously develop the area from Ramallah around that end of Jerusalem, enveloping Jericho and heading in the direction of Bethlehem.
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 of Jericho.
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 territories.
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.
The 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 Shyyah.
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.
When the 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 into Jericho.
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 state.
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.
Palestinian development, 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.
But 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 vital.