Theater of Cruelty

Israel on march eastward

In the shadow of Gaza, the Israelis have secured a steel grip on Jerusalem.


There is a cute little story about the Palestinian village of Nu'aman outside Jerusalem. It goes as follows: ever since East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel, Nu'aman has been within the city limits as defined by the occupying forces. But the villagers still had ID cards that placed them on the West Bank. This meant that they did not automatically have access to the city. But the children went to school in Jerusalem, and the adults traveled more or less freely both within and across the borders of the occupation.

Until a few years ago. Then children and adults were no longer allowed to enter Jerusalem, despite the fact that they lived in the city. Then came the ban on building. Then the orders to tear. Finally, the road to Jerusalem was closed. When it became clear that the wall would go between Nu'aman and the neighboring village, access to Bethlehem was also blocked.

As is so often the case in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict – paradoxically, since the parties are at war – the people of Nu'aman sued the state. They would have changed the route of the wall so that they ended up on the West Bank side. Realizing that it would shut them off from the land they cultivated, they changed their strategy and demanded ID cards as residents of Jerusalem instead.

In March, the ruling ordered the Israeli state to give Nu'aman residents free passage until the court decides where they belong. In the meantime, they can apply for Jerusalem's blue ID card. But it does not help much. For Nu'aman is already physically surrounded by the wall on one side, and a vastly expanding Har Homa settlement on the other.

A small village among Israeli bulldozers, and a local "mayor" who jokes: "you will see that we get our own state anyway: Nu'amanistan."

Facts on the ground

A bittersweet summary, of course. For the truth is that neither Nu'amans nor other Palestinians will get their own state like that right away. For now, the Israelis are on the cutting edge. And in practice, Jerusalem is already theirs.

It must have been a lie for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to hear from President George W. Bush that the United States accepted the so-called "facts on the ground." At any rate, he promptly set about creating the facts that would make it impossible to give parts of Jerusalem to the Palestinians; as capital or anything else. The plan is to build 3500 homes in an area from East Jerusalem all the way to Maale Adumim. It will create a transverse belt of settlements from west to east which in practice will cut much of the link between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank.

It created a bit furore, of course, also in the United States. For Bush has actually made it clear that the Israelis cannot do things on the ground that "will change the status of Jerusalem." But Sharon is not so concerned about that. Because by building this belt of settlements, he practically circles the whole of East Jerusalem. And he combines this encirclement with two other means: by building a wall that leaves as many Palestinians as possible inside the West Bank while as much property and land as possible is left on the Israeli side. And by passing laws that make it difficult for Palestinians to have any rights in a city that has always belonged to them.

These are the contours of Israel's future borders. But it doesn't help with shape and scratch. Also content must be in place. And it must be Jewish. That is why the Palestinians must leave. And the land and the houses they leave must be taken over by the Jewish settlers who fill the void.

Israelis expropriate Palestinian property over a low shoe. They can do this because the Palestinians often have no deed on the land they cultivate. Quite a few houses have also been built illegally, for the simple reason that it is almost impossible for the Palestinians to obtain a building permit. And the state can at any time go in and decide that privately owned land and property must be cleared or demolished due to "security considerations." – which can be anything.

The result is that Palestinian houses are being demolished at an amazing pace. Just this year, 50 homes have been demolished in East Jerusalem. All ten thousand homes in this one city are threatened with forced demolition at any time. On the other hand, 21 Jewish homes will be built in the Muslim part of the Old City. It goes without saying that Palestinians cannot build in the Jewish quarter.

But all this is not enough for the Israelis. Last summer, they quietly began confiscating property under an old law of absence that has never been applicable in the annexed East Jerusalem at all. In other words, it was completely illegal and the state had to retreat when the scandal was uncovered by the newspaper Haretz. But the message of the Palestinians was crystal clear: those who end up on the wrong side of the wall will in the future lose the right to the properties they sit on in Jerusalem and elsewhere.

The goal is for the Israelis: All of Jerusalem with Gush Etzion, Efrat and Maale Adumim will end up on the Israeli side of the wall. There may be a bit of a jolt, and concrete blocks will be demolished and rebuilt according to demographic and political changes. But Greater Jerusalem is in the box. In the coming decades, Palestinians will be expelled, and Jewish settlers will move in.

With the route now there, 55.000 Palestinians will be cut off from their city. They will have to find their schools, hospitals, mosques and churches in the West Bank. It will give the Israelis an excuse to shut them out of Jerusalem, due to "lack of ties to the city." More than XNUMX Palestinians have already lost their right to housing on this basis.

Has stolen Jerusalem

What is happening in Jerusalem is dramatic for the following simple reasons: It is quite impossible now for Jews and Palestinians to ever share this city as their capital. Israel has simply stolen it; and strangely easy it has gone, too, considering the rosy peace views of Judeo-Arab togetherness on biblical ground.

Now, of course, it was never relevant for the Israelis to share Jerusalem with anyone. When Prime Minister Ehud Barak began to grant licenses in relation to shared control, he was promptly deposed by the Israeli people.

But one thing is the mental barriers to a two-state solution with a common capital. Something quite different is that there will be no East Jerusalem to draw on, for the simple reason that the West Bank will no longer be in the extension of the city.

But the Israelis also have a problem. Because they can't stop here. For them, the road goes all the way to Hebron, with its tremendous symbolic significance for both Judaism and Zionism.

Exactly how the Israelis will end up in Hebron, and when they will do so, is uncertain. But it is difficult to imagine an Israel in 2050 that does not incorporate Hebron with its many thousands of settlers. Not least, it is difficult to imagine this since there are eight or nine other settlements in a row on the road there, and that it therefore becomes logical to throw a loop around the entire stretch up to the city which huser six tombs of immeasurable importance for the Jews: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah.

In all the arguing around routes and "armpits:" how many Palestinian cities are left inside and between the loops; there is basically only one thing that surprises, namely that Hebron has been outside all along. Admittedly, the settlements there get their own small security loops, but in no proposal has Kirjat Arba or Givat Harsina been provided with a life innenfor the Israeli wall. Which is basically strange, and makes one wonder if the Israelis have simply thought that Hebron is, after all, too far away from the Green Line.

In that case, it would have been quite unlike them.

And settling the has thought of, however, is Ariel, located north of Ramallah and south of Nablus. But in February of this year, the Israelis had to change the security fence path, with the result that the fence is now closer to the green line. Paradoxically, it has led to that several, no fewer, Palestinian villages are now being squeezed into semicircles and "armpits." But the new route takes only seven percent of the West Bank while the previous one took as much as 16 percent.

One of the settlements that had to give way during the change was Ariel. It no longer gets a loop that places it inside the wall on the Israeli side. But that does not mean that the Israelis will not incorporate it sometime in the future. The question of Ariel is not settled, only "put on hold."

Two or three "fingers"

There has been, and still is, a lot of back and forth about where the wall and security fence should go. Israel has basically given the blow in the judgment of the International Court of Justice in The Hague that the wall violates international law. On the other hand, they have changed the route several times following orders from their own Supreme Court.

But all this is just temporary setbacks and tactical retreats. For Israel's new borders are in practice destined for the coming decades. They will take pieces of the West Bank along the entire Green Line, but only two or three places will Israel eat far into Palestinian territory: In and around Ariel and Jerusalem / Gush Etzion. It is likely that Hebron will eventually join these two or three "fingers". But that will happen after the current route is consolidated and the new Israeli stripes are annexed. Then it will probably be quiet for a while. And then there is a new offensive east…

The goal, in the long run, is to create a space where the West Bank flows into Jordan and the Palestinians are displaced into the state the Israelis have always intended could become theirs. But in that case, it would probably be very stupid to extend the security fence in an eastern route along the Jordan River…

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