Thursday, December 13, 2012

The E1 witch hunt

Zalman Shoval
The killing continues in Syria. There is genocide being committed in several places in Africa. There is chaos in Egypt. And still, the foreign ministers of 27 EU countries convened an emergency meeting in Brussels last week to discuss Israel's plan to build a few thousand housing units in Jerusalem and the E1 area, of all things. It is true that the international media, unlike some of the Israeli media, didn't even cover the meeting. But if there is anything that accentuates Europe's bias and detachment from reality (with the exception of a handful of righteous nations, like the Czech Republic and, in this case, also Germany), it is the persistent European disregard for the Palestinians' blatant breach of agreements and the exaggerated outrage over Israel's legitimate responses. 

The EU ministers only halfheartedly condemned Hamas' threats against Israel (made at a Gaza rally last weekend). On the other hand, they stated that they were "deeply dismayed" because the E1 construction will "seriously undermine the prospects of a negotiated resolution of the conflict by jeopardizing the possibility of a contiguous and viable Palestinian state and of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states." Factually, this isn't accurate, as anyone who looks at a map of Israel will testify. A British reporter working for The Sun wrote that the repeated attacks by some of his colleagues against Israel are a form of "anti-Semitism by proxy." It seems that nameless European diplomats who are threatening Israel with sanctions are motivated by the same type of anti-Semitism.
The significance of the E1 plan, which calls for construction that would physically link the Jewish city of Maaleh Adumim with Jerusalem, stems from the fact that is will prevent, or at least reduce, Jerusalem's exposure to terror attacks from the east. That is precisely why the Palestinians are crying out so harshly against it. 

Henry Kissinger once said that it wasn't until he drove from Amman to Jerusalem that he realized how close the city was to the eastern border. But Israel's prime ministers, from Rabin to Benjamin Netanyahu, did realize. That is why they decided that just as the construction around Jerusalem in the south, north and west would prevent any possibility of the city getting cut off from the rest of the country, so there should be a strategic, physical shield in the east as well. We would be wise to remind all who claim they are aware of Israel's security needs of this fact.
I remember a conversation between then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in which the latter raised the question of a contiguous Palestinian territory, Sharon replied that he would not object to a Palestinian tunnel connecting Ramallah and Bethlehem, but that Maaleh Adumim would be linked to Jerusalem. The fact that Sharon and other prime ministers didn't fully implement the E1 plan, but also never shelved it (only lowering it on the priority list), indicates that the issue didn't seem urgent enough to them. Now, in the face of unilateral Palestinian initiatives, the priorities have changed.
The thing that bothers the Palestinians, and most of the Europeans (and the U.S., too, but the Americans have opted to remain behind the scenes this time around), is not so much the issue of physical contiguity but the possibility that the E1 plan — which would separate east Jerusalem from the rest of the territory the Palestinians claim for a state — would prevent them from claiming it as their capital.
For now, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' unilateral initiative to gain statehood recognition at the U.N., and his refusal to enter any real peace negotiations with Israel, have already distanced the Palestinians from realizing their vision of statehood.

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