In E1, making the (Judean) desert bloom is anathema

The Jewish people have an inalienable historical, legal and religious right to their homeland.

Maale Adumim 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Ammar Awad)
Maale Adumim 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ammar Awad)
The US state of California has recognized borders with its adjacent states. Yet, if one were to apply what passes for logic in the Middle East, California would instead be referred to as being on the West Bank of the Mississippi. The name “West Bank” refers to the more historically accurate names of Judea and Samaria, where Jews have lived since biblical times. As for the headline-grabbing and much contested real West Bank, the Jordan River loses its banks well before it trickles into the Dead Sea.
Nevertheless, the media invention of the “West Bank of the Jordan” has captured the imagination of countless people whose knowledge of either geography or the Bible is minimal. This pervasive ignorance is now being extended to the latest human rights cause of the Middle East. No—not the daily slaughter in Syria or the ongoing violence between Sunnis and Shi’ites throughout the region—but a barren hilltop on the outskirts of Israel’s capital, Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu approved planning for a new neighborhood in the unpopulated and rocky slope of area E1. A stretch of some 3,000 acres, the development of this area would bring together Jerusalem and the outlying suburb of Ma’aleh Adumim. While “E1” is merely a geographical term for a barren stretch of land, Ma’aleh Adumim has a biblical history.
It is first mentioned in the Book of Joshua (15:7 and 18:17) as the border between the Israelite tribes of Judah and Benjamin. It is also referred to in the Gospel of Luke (10:29-37) as the site of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Literally meaning the “Red Ascent,” Ma’aleh Adumim refers to the reddish rock lining the ascent to Jerusalem from the Dead Sea.
The desire of the Israeli government to develop E1 is nothing new. In 1994, then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin extended the borders of Ma'aleh Adumim to include E1, but in the interests of furthering peace negotiations with the Palestinians, refrained from doing so, as was the case with subsequent governments.
Recently, however, it has become clear that both Palestinian politicians and terrorist leaders consider the E1 area as no more or less a settlement than the rest of Israel, whose existence they reject.
Israel notes that the area of E1 and Ma’aleh Adumim is part of its historic capital, and building neighborhoods in Jerusalem is a sovereign, municipal matter. Furthermore, Israel maintains that the territory commonly referred to as “the West Bank” is not occupied, but rather disputed territory. This is simply because it was never held under the legitimate sovereignty of any state.
After the British Mandate ended in 1948, the area was occupied by Jordan until the 1967 Six Day War when Israel subsequently assumed control as the result of its victory in that defensive war. The so-called Green Line delineates the armistice lines of the 1948 war and is not an international border.
Some people are opposed to the development of E1 for nationalistic Palestinian reasons. They say the plan is intended to cut off Jerusalem’s Palestinian neighborhoods from the West Bank and make a contiguous Palestine impossible. This is plain nonsense because once E1 is developed, Palestinians will be able to travel from Bethlehem to Ramallah by taking a new road around Ma’aleh Adumim. Former prime minister Ehud Olmert offered the Palestinians to build a road as part of a comprehensive settlement, but the Palestinians rejected it.
The outrage over E1 is based on a flawed understanding of international law. First of all, the “West Bank” is but a rather small part of the area designated by the League of Nations for a Jewish homeland under the British Mandate. But more importantly—and all too often forgotten by most countries—it is also the heart of the ancient Jewish homeland. This gives the Jewish people inalienable historical, legal, and religious rights—their heritage—which cannot be denied.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas claims that the Palestinians want a two-state solution. Yet they have refused every offer of a state by Israel and chance to negotiate for over three years. And now, in order to continue avoiding negotiations, they have pushed a basically meaningless bid at the UN.
Everyone knows that E1—like Ma’aleh Adumim, Gush Etzion, and other large areas of Jewish settlement—is going to remain in Israel under an eventual peace settlement. Building there to relieve Jerusalem’s housing shortage is good for Israel, not to mention good for the Palestinian economy, since the overwhelming majority of the construction workers who will build in E1 are Palestinians.
They could even work on the new Ma’aleh Adumim bypass road that will allow access between Palestinian areas to the north and the south of Jerusalem. If the Palestinians truly want to live in peace in their own independent state alongside Israel, the way to get it is at the negotiating table, not the UN General Assembly.
The writer is a #1 New York Times bestselling author. His latest book, The Locket, tells the story of a young girl, a neighbor of Adolf Eichmann, who is caught in the horror of the Holocaust.