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      Op-Ed: Maaleh Adumim Blurs Bush's Blueprint

      Published: Tuesday, April 19, 2005 7:16 PM
      Israel is indeed truly unique. It is constantly singled out for special treatment that no other country would accept or tolerate.


      Israel is indeed truly unique. It is constantly singled out for special treatment that no other country would accept or tolerate.

      Take the case of Maaleh Adumim, which is situated in the West Bank (called Judea until 1950, as those who followed Pope John Paul's funeral service were reminded). The West Bank is an area of land just 5,860 square kilometres in size - about the size of Delaware. President Bush calls Maaleh Adumim a "settlement", a code word indicating that Jews are not welcome residents in any part of this territory - where neither Jews nor Arabs have yet established the internationally recognised right to be its sovereign ruler.

      In fact, Maaleh Adumim is a thriving metropolis of 32,000 people, containing nine schools, 39 kindergartens, seven medical centres and two family centres. There is no hospital, but five major hospitals are located just seven kilometres up the road, in Jerusalem.

      President Bush reminded Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon during their recent meeting at the President's Crawford Ranch that under the Road Map, Israel had to refrain from any new settlement activity. The President was particularly concerned that Israel was planning to build another 3,500 housing units in the Maale Adumim "settlement".

      Has a city of 32,000 people ever been told they must refrain from having children, getting married or enjoying family reunification?

      President Bush is worried that the fundamental basic human rights of 32,000 Jews to copulate and populate might cut off Palestinian access to eastern Jerusalem, frustrating his two-state vision of Israel and a Palestinian democratic state living side by side. The president really needs to exercise tunnel vision to overcome this basic moral flaw in his plan to succeed where others have so dismally failed.

      The Palestinians have proven themselves very adept at building tunnels, through which they have smuggled all kinds of weapons and explosives in their unremitting terrorist campaign against their Jewish neighbours. No doubt, a system of tunnels could be constructed and used for peaceful purposes to allow any such access under or around Maaleh Adumim.

      The president is said to have given Mr. Sharon a commitment that Israel would be able to hold on to "major population centres" such as Maaleh Adumim. Why doesn't he have the guts to come out and publicly say so right now, rather than try to put a hold on the lives and hopes of 32,000 people and create false expectations for the Palestinians, whose cause he apparently is championing?

      Maaleh Adumim just happens to be located in an area slated for the reconstitution and establishment of the Jewish National Home by "close settlement on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes," as was proclaimed by the League of Nations Mandate, which still is alive and operative today by virtue of Article 80 of the United Nations Charter.

      President Bush's moral and legal blindness also extends to his three partners in the Road Map - the European Union, Russia and the United Nations - none of which cares a hoot what history, the United Nations Charter or international law says or prescribes.

      We see how absurd this Road Map really has become when the president of the world's only superpower, backed up by his three powerful enforcers, has to tell 32,000 people that they have to live and behave in ways that would not be acceptable in any other part of the World.

      Intent on creating a second Arab state in Palestine - in addition to Jordan, which already occupies almost 80% of the former Mandate territory - the president seems to have "lost the plot", and appears to be totally unable to conceive of any sort of creative resolution to what could be easily overcome with a little imagination.

      Underground railways and road tunnels are a part of every modern society. What is the problem in doing the same thing in the West Bank and Gaza? Neither Jews nor Arabs need become the scapegoats for each other's continued residence in the areas claimed by them. Contiguity can be achieved just as easily underground as at ground level.

      As long as the idea is promulgated that Jews will not be allowed to live where they currently do in accordance with international law, the failure of the Road Map will be assured. One president's vision is surely 32,000 other people's nightmare.

      If the president doesn't wake up soon and review this irrational, racist and discriminatory policy, it will also turn out to be the worst nightmare for millions of other Jews and Arabs in the region, as well.