Uri Avnery : Politics of Settlements:
- Israel to seize more Palestinian land
This will further diminish the viability of a Palestinian state
By Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank
Thursday 03 March 2005, 19:46 Makka Time, 16:46 GMT
The Israeli government has ordered the confiscation of large swathes
of Palestinian land in the West Bank.
The area to be seized encompasses more than 10sq km of land in the
southern West Bank, especially in the Hebron region.
According to the confiscation orders, which were published on
Wednesday, the Israeli army will expropriate the land extending from
the village of al-Burj to southern Yatta.
This covers hundreds of acres of farmland, including numerous olive
groves, and will further diminish the size of any prospective
Palestinian state in the West Bank.
Israel has already annexed more than a 100sq km of West Bank land,
ostensibly to build a gigantic separation wall which snakes through
Palestinian towns and villages, reducing some of them to virtual
Moreover, dozens of other Jewish settlements in the heart of the
West Bank, such as Ma'ali Adomim near Jerusalem and Ariel, south of
Nablus, continue to expand at the expense of Palestinian territory.
"They (the Israelis) act as if there is an unwritten understanding
between the US and Israel whereby US officials make statements
opposing settlement expansion while Israel keeps up the 'good work'"
Abd al-Hadi Hantash,
Palestinian analysts say these land-grabs fly in the face of
international efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
According to Abd al-Hadi Hantash, who has been monitoring Israeli
settlement activities for the past 25 years, the purpose of the
latest seizure is to "make any prospective Palestinian state as
small as possible and as unviable as possible".
"Israel believes that President [George] Bush is not really serious
about a viable Palestinian state, they think that he is just
bamboozling the Arabs.
"This is how they interpret American reluctance to force Israel to
halt the land confiscation and settlement expansion."
He added: "They (the Israelis) act as if there is an unwritten
understanding between the US and Israel whereby US officials make
statements opposing settlement expansion while Israel keeps up
the 'good work'."
Israel says the wall is necessary
to stop attacks on Israeli civilians
A spokesman for the Israeli government told Aljazeera.net: "The
expropriation is necessary to build the separation fence to prevent
terror attacks on Israeli citizens - this is not a permanent
confiscation, it is only a temporary security measure."
However, the confiscation orders, handed over to landowners in the
Hebron area, do not state that the confiscation is temporary.
"From the very first day of the occupation in 1967, successive
Israeli governments always claimed that the recurrent confiscations
were temporary security measures. Then we ended up having more than
230 settlements, swallowing up over 55% of the West Bank," Hantash
Uri Avnery : Politics of Settlements:
Friday, March 04 2005
"For years now I have been warning that this is the intention of
Ariel Sharon, the basis of the whole settlement enterprise planned
and set up by him.."
Why did Bush suddenly make a declaration whose practical meaning is
that some of these settlement blocs must be dismantled? And why did
he make it in Brussels? He wanted to gain favour with his European
hosts. The European Union opposes the annexation of West Bank
territory to Israel. Bush said what he said in order to reduce his
differences with Europe
Seven words uttered by President Bush in Brussels have not been paid
the attention they deserve.
He called for the establishment of "a democratic Palestinian state
with territorial contiguity" in the West Bank, and then added: "A
state on scattered territories will not work."
It is worthwhile to ponder these words. Who did he point the finger
at? Why did he say this in Brussels, of all places?
Nobody warns of a danger without a reason. If Bush said what he
said, it means that he believes that someone is causing this danger.
Just who might that be?
For years now I have been warning that this is the intention of
Ariel Sharon, the basis of the whole settlement enterprise planned
and set up by him. The lay-out of the settlements on the West Bank
map is designed to cut the territory up from north to south and from
west to east, in order to forestall any possibility of establishing
a really viable and contiguous Palestinian state, a state like any
If the settlement blocs that have been created are annexed to
Israel, the Palestinian territory will be sliced up into a number of
enclaves perhaps four, perhaps six. The Gaza Strip, an isolated
ghetto by itself, will be another enclave. Each enclave will be
surrounded by settlements and military installations, and all of
them will be cut off from the world outside.
The American intelligence agencies are familiar with this picture,
of course. They can see it with their satellites. But that did not
deter President Bush from promising Sharon last year that
Israeli "population centres" in the West Bank will be annexed to
These "population centres" are the very same settlement blocs that
were defined by the US in the past as "illegal" and "an obstacle to
peace". During the presidency of the first President Bush, the
American administration even decided to deduct the costs of new
settlement projects from the financial benefits accorded to Israel.
So why did the second Bush suddenly make a declaration whose
practical meaning is that some of these settlement blocs must be
dismantled? And why did he make it in Brussels?
It is clear that he wanted to gain favour with his European hosts.
The European Union opposes the annexation of West Bank territory to
Israel. Bush said what he said in order to reduce his differences
So he said it. And what is happening on the ground in the meantime?
Last Sunday the Israeli government decided for the second time to
implement the disengagement plan, a decision that was hailed by the
media as "historic". With all the hullabaloo, hardly any attention
was paid to a second resolution adopted at the same meeting: to
continue building the wall in the West Bank.
At first sight, that is a routine decision. After all, the
government argues that this is nothing but a "security fence". It
does indeed have a certain security function, and Israeli public
opinion accepts it as such. But by now, informed people must know
that this wall is intended as the future border of Israel.
Therefore, this week all government spokespersons took pains to
stress that the new path of the wall cuts off only 7-8% of the West
The word "only" deserves attention. President Bill Clinton's last
peace plan spoke about the annexation of 3-4 percent of the West
Bank to Israel, in return for the transfer of 1 percent of Israeli
territory to the Palestinian state. Seven percent of the territory
of the Federal Republic of Germany is much more than the whole state
of Saxony. Seven percent of the territory of the United States of
America is more than the whole giant state of Texas. (Imagine:
Mexico conquers Texas, builds a wall between it and the rest of the
US and fills it with Mexican settlements.)
But the percentage game is misleading. It is not only the size of
the territory that is important, but also its location.
In this respect, the controversy between Israel and the US remains.
It concerns mainly two places, where the path of the wall causes the
dismemberment of the West Bank. If the wall is to include the
settlement town of Ariel, it will send a finger deep into the West
Bank. This finger will connect with a second one, coming from the
opposite direction the two fingers together will cut through the
whole width of the West Bank south of Nablus. Another finger will
extend from Jerusalem to the enlarged Ma'aleh Adumim settlement
bloc, also cutting practically the full width of the West Bank.
The Americans do not yet agree. So Sharon is using one of his
typical methods: in those two places he leaves a gap in the wall. He
will build there in due course, after using a future opportunity to
wrap President Bush so to say around his little finger.
But the percentage account is also wrong in another respect.
Nowadays one speaks only about the wall that will separate the West
Bank from Israel proper. Nobody is talking now of the "eastern"
It is no secret that Sharon plans to build this wall in order to
complete the encirclement of the West Bank and cut it off from the
Jordan valley and the Dead Sea shore. That is a big slice of
territory, about 20 percent of the West Bank, and would cut the West
Bank off from any contact with the world. Sharon knows that he
cannot build this wall at the moment, because of the opposition of
the US and the whole world. Also, there is no budget for it.
Therefore, he is leaving it for the future.
The government decision does formally include the southern border of
the West Bank, where the planned path of the wall runs almost
completely along the Green Line. That looks really nice. But this,
too, contains a trick: Sharon does not intend to build this part of
the wall in the near future. He is postponing it for another time
and then he will propose a different path altogether, including a
finger thrust deeply into Palestinian territory, so as to annex the
South Hebron settlement bloc, up to Kiryat Arba.
By way of deception shalt thou build settlements.
In the meantime, Sharon is keeping himself occupied with building on
the 7 percent of the territory that has been approved by the
government decision. All this area between the wall and the Green
Line the territory already annexed in practice is being filled
with new settlements. Among others:
* A new town called Gevaoth that is to be built west of Bethlehem,
in what is called the "Etzion Bloc". That is a mendacious name: the
original Etzion Bloc consisted of a small group of settlements near
the Green Line. It was occupied by the Arabs in the 1948 war and re-
conquered by Israel in 1967, when the former settlements were also
re-built. But then a whole new town (Efrata) was added to the east,
and beyond that a number of new settlements, until the original few
settlements had expanded into a massive settlement bloc almost
surrounding Bethlehem. Now Sharon is going to fill it with even more
* A big new settlement called "North Tsufim" that is to be built
north of Qalqilia. This, too, will reach the proportions of a town.
* Giant housing projects, that will be set up in order to connect
the Ma'aleh Adumim bloc to Jerusalem, and just about reach the
* Also in the Jerusalem area, the new (Labour) minister for housing,
Yitzhak Herzog, promises to build big housing projects from Har Homa
to Ma'aleh Adumim, while another one is going to be built east of A-
Ram. The aim is to cut Jerusalem off completely from the West Bank.
All this is happening while Israel and the world are waxing lyrical
about the "disengagement" plan which, in essence, is nothing but a
plan to consolidate the Gaza strip as one of the enclaves in "a
state of scattered territories". (The Gaza Strip constitutes only 6
percent of the occupied territories.)
The Labour Party is a full partner in this scheme.
As far as Sharon is concerned, the disengagement plan plays with the
dismantling of some small settlements in a remote corner of the
occupied territories for the fulfilment of his grand design to take
over most of the West Bank.
Now President Bush has declared that he does not accept this design.
His European hosts smiled politely. Perhaps they believed him, and
then, maybe they did not.
-Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist. He served three
terms in the Israeli parliament (Knesset), and is the founder of
Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc)
Source: The Palestine Chronicle - www.palestinechronicle.com
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