Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Israel to realise its plan to cut off Arab East Jerusalem

From the Arab press this morning:

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel is determined to move police to a new West Bank headquarters by the end of the year, officials said Monday, despite US concerns that Israeli development in that particular area near occupied Jerusalem harms prospects for establishing a viable Palestinian state.
The United States has blocked past Israeli efforts to develop the 12-square-kilometre area, known as E-1 and located just east of occupied Jerusalem. Development plans envision 3,500 homes, several hotels and an industrial park there, but were frozen at the urging of the US.
The E-1 project, if completed, would effectively cut off Arab East Jerusalem, the Palestinians' hoped-for capital, from the West Bank hinterland.
Palestinians and Israeli human rights groups see the E-1 proposal as part of an Israeli attempt to consolidate control over West Bank land east of Jerusalem, with the help of a massive separation barrier and new highways.
In the meantime, Israel has gone ahead with building a four-storey police station in the E-1 area.
The Israeli daily Haaretz said that Israel has argued that unlike homes, a security installation such as a police station, could be more easily removed if required in a peace deal.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat warned that Israel is undermining fledgling peace efforts. In November, the US is to host a Middle East conference in hopes of relaunching negotiations on final Israeli-Palestinian deal.
"I believe the continuation of such policies, creating facts on the ground, is undermining efforts that are being exerted to show that peace is possible," Erekat said of the E-1 plan.
The new police building will house Israeli police officers serving in the West Bank. Construction of the building is largely complete. During a recent visit, reporters saw construction crews working on a four-lane highway, which is to branch off from the main Dead Sea-Jerusalem road and pass near the police station.
Israel's public security minister, Avi Dichter, told Haaretz that police officers would move to the new building by the end of the year. "The housing ministry needs to finish the site's infrastructure, and the move into the building is currently being held up only by the infrastructure issue," he said.
Haaretz quoted Dichter as saying Israel was not seeking US consent for the move.
Dichter's spokesman, Yehuda Maman, that "what is planned is what will happen, we aren't talking about 'if'."
Stewart Tuttle, a US embassy spokesman in Tel Aviv, said neither side should take steps that prejudice the outcome of a final peace deal, but that it's up to Israelis and Palestinians to work out their disagreements.
"We are already on a very positive path of discussions between the parties themselves ... and that is where everyone's focus should be," he said.
However, Dan Kurtzer, a former US ambassador to Israel, said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice followed E-1 development plans closely.
"Every time there have been newspaper reports and other indicators of construction in that place, the secretary herself has responded very immediately," Kurtzer said in an interview last week.
"Even this administration, which has not taken a very strong stand on settlements generally, has understood the importance of not closing off the north and south of the West Bank from each other by a string of Israeli settlements that will be enclosed by the security barrier," he said.
The E-1 project is located near Maaleh Adumim, the largest Jewish settlement with 30,000 residents.
Israel has also approved plans to build a large loop of its separation barrier in that area, reaching halfway to the Jordanian border and fencing off some 60 square kilometres of the West Bank. The loop would incorporate Maaleh Adumim, but also several small outlying settlements, driving a deep wedge into the West Bank.
The Maaleh Adumim loop is being challenged in the Supreme Court by the Council for Peace and Security, a group of more than 1,000 retired Israeli security officials who have proposed an alternative that would engulf about half the land the government has proposed.
The court has frozen construction of the barrier segment and awaits a decision from Defense Minister Ehud Barak whether he is determined to move ahead with the large loop.

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