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The UN General Assembly (UN GA) on November 30, 2012, passed a motion granting the Palestinian Authority an upgrade from observer to non-member status. PA President Mahmoud Abbas engaged in duplicitous victim-hood rhetoric in his remarks:
The Palestinian people, who miraculously recovered from the ashes of Al-Nakba of 1948, which was intended to extinguish their being and to expel them in order to uproot and erase their presence, which was rooted in the depths of their land and depths of history. In those dark days, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were torn from their homes and displaced within and outside of their homeland, thrown from their beautiful, embracing, prosperous country to refugee camps in one of the most dreadful campaigns of ethnic cleansing and dispossession in modern history. In those dark days, our people had looked to the United Nations as a beacon of hope and appealed for ending the injustice and for achieving justice and peace, the realization of our rights, and our people still believe in this and continue to wait.
November 29th, was the 65 Anniversary of the UN GA vote approving the partition of the League of Nations British Palestine Mandate into Jewish and Arab states west of the Jordan River. The Arabs rejected that UN proposal instead gathering five armies to invade the embryonic State of Israel on the declaration of its independence May 15, 1948. They failed to conquer Israel then, losing decisively again in 1967 and 1973. The fourth generation of 700,000 Palestinian arabs who fled in 1948, now numbering over four million, live in squalor and hatred in UNWRA refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syrian. UNWRA camps are funded at more than half a billion dollars annually from international donor nations including the US.
PA President Abbas received a standing ovation from his claque, the 132 members of the Non-Alignment Movement bloc including the 57 Muslim members of the Saudi backed Organization of Islamic Cooperation . A celebration immediately erupted in Ramallah, Nablus and Bethlehem on the West Bank at news of the UN GA vote. The Palestinians had struck back at Israel effectively ending the 1993 Oslo Accords that failed to achieve a negotiated two state peace agreement. While, the newly empowered PA might file legal matters with the International Criminal Courts at the Hague, the reality is that it still does not meet the legal definitions of a State under the 1933 Montevideo Convention. The PA may be granted an upgrade in its legation status with UN Members.
Upon Abbas’ return to Ramallah on Sunday he said “now we have a state” noting:
“They told us that if we go the world would explode,” he added. “They asked us to postpone the move. Finally, they told us to change our policy and project. But we remained steadfast and triumphed because the world heard the voices of our people.”
Abbas said he was presenting the UN “victory” as a gift to the “soul of the late leader Yasser Arafat.” He said that the Palestinians would continue to march in the footsteps of Arafat.
Abbas said the Palestinians would continue their struggle until the Palestinian flag is raised over the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City and churches. He said that Jerusalem was the “eternal capital of the State of Palestine.”
Israel strikes back with the E-1 Development Announcement.
Listen to my radio interview with Tom Trent on the E-1 development announcement. The discussion begins at 10:30 minutes into the show:
PM Netanyahu didn’t waste any time in punishing Abbas for his actions. Netanyahu announced approval of a development of 3,000 apartments in an area east of Ma’aleh Adumim, designated E-1 . E-1 is the undeveloped area of 11.9 sq.kilometers located on the opposite side of Route 1 from the built-up parts of Ma’aleh Adumim.
Reuters noted Netanyahu’s defiance of the UN GA‘s upgrading of the PA to non-member status, equivalent to that held by the Vatican and some NGOs:
“We will carry on building in Jerusalem and in all the places that are on the map of Israel’s strategic interests,” a defiant Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet meeting.
In another blow to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, Israel announced it was withholding Palestinian tax revenues this month worth about $100 million.
Israel said the reason for the move was a Palestinian debt of $200 million to the Israeli Electric Corporation, an obligation that has existed for some time.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz cautioned last month that if the Palestinians went ahead with the U.N. bid Israel would “not collect taxes for them and we will not transfer their revenues”.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior Palestinian official, said confiscation of the tax funds due the cash-strapped Authority, vital to meeting its payroll, was “piracy and theft”.
The Obama White House and Secretary of State Clinton commented in a New York Times report:
“We reiterate our longstanding opposition to settlements and East Jerusalem construction and announcements,” a spokesman for the National Security Council, Tommy Vietor, said. “We believe these actions are counterproductive and make it harder to resume direct negotiations or achieve a two-state solution.”
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in a Saban Forum speech on Friday night at a Washington hotel, criticized Israel’s decision to proceed with plans for construction without referring to any settlements directly by name. “These activities set back the cause of a negotiated peace,” Mrs. Clinton said.
The New York Times, in its report on the E-1 project announcement, presented its view on what the consequences might be of this latest Israeli action:
. . . the government would pursue “preliminary zoning and planning preparations” for a development that would separate the West Bank cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem from Jerusalem. If such a project were to go beyond blueprints, it could prevent the creation of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state.
Ha’aretz headlined the PM’s actions:
East Jerusalem project could bury two-state solution.
Plans to build in Area E-1 would effectively bisect the West Bank and severe the physical link between the Palestinian territories and Jerusalem.
Former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert, who also attended the Washington Saban Center conference, decried Netanyahu’s actions as, “the worst slap in the face of a U.S. president.” Olmert, despite his legal entanglements is one of a number of opponents of Netanyahu seeking to run in the January 22, 2013 Knesset elections.
What is the Reality of these Criticisms?
CAMERA, the Boston-based Middle East reporting monitoring group published a rebuttal of these assessments, today. It noted in a 2005 analysis, “The Contiguity Double-Standard” the fallacies of the criticisms of E-1:
Palestinian contiguity in the West Bank would be no more cut off with the so-called E-1 corridor than would Israeli contiguity if Israel were to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders, even with slight modifications.
Those who charge that Israeli building in Ma’aleh Adumim severs north-south contiguity disregard the fact that Palestinian-controlled areas would be connected by land east of Ma’aleh Adumim (marked on the map) that is at its narrowest point ~15 km wide.
Moreover, Israel proposes to build tunnels or overpasses to obviate the need for Palestinians to detour to the east through the corridor.
Ironically, many of those who argue for greater contiguity between Palestinian areas, at the same time promote Israeli withdrawal to its pre-1967 boundaries, which (even with minor modifications) would confine Israel to a far less contiguous territory than that of the West Bank. As shown on the map above, there is a roughly 15 km wide strip of land separating the Green Line (and the Security Fence) from the Mediterranean Sea (near Herzliya). Also shown is the circuitous route necessary to travel via this corridor between northern and southern Israel. (e.g. from Arad to Beit Shean.)
Nor is it true that the construction would cut off Palestinian areas from Jerusalem. Access to Jerusalem through Abu Dis, Eizariya, Hizma and Anata is not prevented by the proposed neighborhood, nor would it be precluded by a string of neighborhoods connecting Ma’aleh Adumim to Jerusalem.
E-1 is the legacy of PM Yitzhak Rabin
The E-1 project ironically had first been proposed by the late Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin in 1975. That was noted in comments by PM Netanyahu in his weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday:
The response to the attack on Zionism and the State of Israel must reinforce and underscore the implementation of the settlement plan in all areas in which the Government decides regarding settlement.
“These are not my words. These are the words of the government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and this is the language of the Cabinet’s 1975 decision in the wake of the UN decision that equated Zionism with Racism.
“The Palestinian Authority’s one-sided step at the UN constitutes a gross violation of the agreements that have been signed with the State of Israel; accordingly, the Government of Israel rejects the UN General Assembly decision.”
A January 2011 Jerusalem Post report on E-1 noted the positions of moribund Israeli PM Sharon in 2005 and later PM Ehud Olmert:
Right before the Gaza withdrawal in 2005, then-prime minister Ariel Sharon advanced long-standing plans to build 3,500 apartment units in E-1, but didn’t authorize them, although he did allow for the construction of a regional police station at the site.
In September of that year, Ehud Olmert, who was then vice premier, told The Jerusalem Post that Israel had promised the US it would not build apartment buildings there. That didn’t stop Olmert from pledging to build in E-1 when he campaigned to be prime minister. It was a promise he never kept.
Netanyahu’s Turnaround from Earlier E-1 positions
PM Netanyahu’s position on E-1 represents a turnaround from his prior stands. In January 2011, The Jerusalem Post reported that Ma’aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel called for immediate construction of the E-1 neighborhood after learning from “Palestine Papers” that Netanyahu promised US Secretary of State Clinton to freeze the project in May 2009. This after Netanyahu had campaigned in his successful Knesset election in 2009 saying that he would eventually build E-1. The Palestine Papers containing the alleged secret negotiations between the PA and Israel over the period from 1999 to 2010 were released by the Al Jazeera Transparency Unit, endeavoring to embarrass Palestinian leaders for concessions made in response to alleged Israeli government pressures.
Now, in the wake of Israel’s outrage at the UN GA conferring the PA with non-member status, we will see if Netanyahu’s resolve will eventuate in the long promised E-1 project actually beginning development. Ma’aleh Adumim’s Mayor Kashriel and others, including right wing National Union Knesset member Arieh Eldad, will be waiting to see if the first permits are let and construction finally begins after 37 years of broken promises.