Monday, June 08, 2009

Washington Post: Why Freeze Settlements In Towns The Palestinians Concede Will Go To Israel?

I didn't expect the Washington Post to take this position--and their second reason for taking it is one that I have not seen mentioned by the pundits:
The problem is that no Israeli government -- not Mr. Netanyahu's, not even one led by the current opposition -- is likely to agree to a total construction ban. By insisting on one, the administration risks bogging itself down in a major dispute with its ally, while giving Arab governments and Palestinians a ready excuse not to make their own concessions. Meanwhile, the practical need for a total settlement freeze is debatable. Palestinian negotiators have already conceded that many of the towns will be annexed to Israel in any final deal; so did former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
I imagine that between Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, what was said by former presidents Clinton and Bush is not going to carry a lot of weight--but if the Palestinian Arabs themselves agree on this point, then that adds one more counterargument to the idea of forcing Israel to comply with the Roadmap when Obama has no problem with Abbas standing pat.

Here is a fact sheet by Prof. Mitchell Bard on "consensus settlements", referring to a consensus among Israelis--however according to the Clinton Plan as well, it was agreed that some of these would be part of Israel:

Approximately two-thirds of the Jews in the West Bank live in five settlement “blocs” that are all near the 1967 border. Most Israelis believe these blocs should become part of Israel when final borders are drawn and Prime Minister Sharon has repeatedly said the large settlement blocs will “remain in our hands.” The table below lists the “consensus” settlements:

Bloc

No. of Communities

Population

Approximate. Area (sq. miles)

Ma’ale Adumim

6

39,000

28

Modiin Illit

4

34,515

2

Ariel

15

38,909

47

Gush Etzion

18

42,322

10

Givat Ze’ev

5

14,603

3

Total

45

169,349

90

As the table shows, these are large communities with thousands of residents. Evacuating them would be the equivalent of dismantling major American cities the size of Maryland’s capital, Annapolis, Juneau, Alaska, or Augusta, Georgia. On a proportional basis, compared to the total population of the country, these blocs would be the equivalent of U.S. municipalities with populations ranging from a half million (e.g., Boston, Denver, Seattle, Washington, D.C.) to 1.7 million (e.g., Philadelphia and Houston).

Ma’ale Adumim is a suburb of Israel’s capital, barely three miles outside Jerusalem’s city limits, a ten-minute drive away. Ma’ale Adumim is not a recently constructed outpost on a hilltop; it is a 30-year-old community that is popular because it is clean, safe, and close to where many residents work. It is also the largest Jewish city in the territories, with a population of 33,259. Approximately 6,000 people live in surrounding settlements that are included in the Ma’ale bloc. Israel has long planned to fill in the empty gap between Jerusalem and this bedroom community (referred to as the E1 project). The corridor is approximately 3,250 acres and does not have any inhabitants, so no Palestinians would be displaced. According to the Clinton plan, Ma’ale was to be part of Israel.

The Gush Etzion Bloc consists of 18 communities with a population of more than 42,000 just 10 minutes from Jerusalem. Jews lived in this area prior to 1948, but the Jordanian Legion destroyed the settlements and killed 240 women and children during Israel’s War of Independence. After Israel recaptured the area in 1967, descendants of those early settlers reestablished the community. The largest of the settlements is the city of Betar Illit with more than 24,000 residents.

The Givat Ze’ev bloc includes five communities just northwest of Jerusalem. Givat Ze’ev, with a population of nearly 11,000, is by far the largest.

Modiin Illit is a bloc with four communities. The city of Modiin Illit is by far the largest with more than 34,514 people situated just over the Green Line, about 23 miles northwest of Jerusalem and the same distance east of Tel Aviv.

Ariel is now the heart of the second most populous bloc of settlements. The city is located just 25 miles east of Tel Aviv and 31 miles north of Jerusalem. Ariel and the surrounding communities expand Israel's narrow waist (which was just 9 miles wide prior to 1967) and ensure that Israel has a land route to the Jordan Valley in case Israel needs to fight a land war to the east. It is more controversial than the other consensus settlements because it is the furthest from the 1949 Armistice Line, extending approximately 12 miles into the West Bank. Nevertheless, Barak’s proposal at Camp David included Ariel among the settlement blocs to be annexed to Israel; the Clinton plan also envisioned incorporating Ariel within the new borders of Israel. [emphasis added]

Of course, it can be argued that the Clinton Plan as well as Bush's letter are null and void--but the same could be argued about the Roadmap itself, which was tied to a specific actions on specific dates. That being the case--who is to say that the Roadmap itself is null and void. The fact that the Palestinian Arabs have not fulfilled their part--and are not being pushed to as is Israel--is another point worth addressing.

Bottom line, the issue of the settlements is not as straightforward as Obama and Hillary Clinton are presenting it.

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