Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Barak makes quick work of the feigned "hysterics" from the PLO spokesliars about the announced building to link Maael Adumim, an East Jerusalem suburb/neighborhood of 40,000, to other Jerusalem neighborhoods.
He lays out a logical series of points explaining why the previously planned building is not only - not a big deal - but it in no way jeopardizes any contiguity issues or future peace talks.
  • Palestinians have already agreed publicly and privately that this major bloc will stay under Israel's authority.
  • Israeli contiguity is no less important than Palestinian contiguity.
  • Diplomatic pressure on Israel regarding building in Maale Adumim (Jerusalem) is not justified.
  • Demographic realities dictate the major blocs stay with Israel.
  • Major settlement blocs account for 80% of Israelis over the Green Line and less than 6% West Bank land.
  • The Maale Adumim plan does not interfere with any unsolvable territorial contiguity issues.
  • Palestinian hysterics on this is reminiscent of their "all or nothing" attitude that doomed the Camp David talks.
  • Israel withdrawal from Gaza should coincide with PA dismantling of the terror groups. (never happen - inmyopinion)

Trust is built on realities

At Camp David, this insistence brought me to fear that the dispute was actually not about 1967, namely "occupation", but 1947, the very right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. It should be clear that our "demographic continuity" is no less important than the Palestinian desire for "territorial contiguity".

The Israeli leader, on the other hand, is expected to withdraw forces from Gaza, evacuate settlements and, apparently, uproot Jewish settlers by force. If anyone does not realise the extent of his historic compromise, he should examine the rightwing resistance to Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan, or read the reports indicating a growing threat to his own life. His words yesterday, comparing the atmosphere in Israel to the eve of a civil war, are, unfortunately, far from empty rhetoric.

However, while Israel is actively seeking to achieve these goals, the Palestinians should take measures to implement their obligations to dismantle, not only control, the terror infrastructure.

They should also accept the demographic realities. This is why a partial bureaucratic approval of an old construction plan in the city of Maale Adumim, adjacent to Jerusalem, should not be perceived as a danger to the peace process. All the diplomatic pressure on Israel, in this specific case, is not justified, simply because the Palestinians have already agreed this major bloc will stay under Israel's authority - if not at Camp David, in many other exchanges of ideas. While the construction plan is far from being implemented on the ground, threats by Saeb Erekat (or Abbas) that its authorisation "closes the door to peace" takes us back to a gloomy period where short-term political gains are put before long-term benefits.

No Israeli government can, should or needs to remove the major settlement blocs. These are where almost 80% of the settlers live in an area of no more than 6% of the total land area of the West Bank. This understanding should ease the recent tension between the sides, especially as the Maale Adumim plan specifically does not interfere with any unsolvable territorial contiguity issues.

But the story of Maale Adumim is only an example that serves to illustrate a broader challenge in future negotiations with the Palestinians. One lesson from our attempt to reach an agreement was that the attitude of "all or nothing" brought both sides to a stalemate. The cost of Yasser Arafat's insistence on strictly unalterable demands is too high and painful a price to be paid again. Repeating the same scenario is a historic mistake that none of us can afford to make.

We still have a long way to go until trust is renewed. Until we reach this point, long-term realities rather than short-term political gains should dictate not only actions on the ground, but also the declarations of leaders on both sides. Sticking to old slogans and "all or nothing" positions on either side will generate the same deadlock we reached four and a half years ago. This mistake should not be repeated.

Baltimore Sun - As Gaza exit looms, a settlement surges
Building boom: Palestinians fear isolation as an affluent Jewish community keeps growing.


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