Whose Land is it Anyway?
By Paula Stern
5/29/2011, 12:00 AM
Paula SternPaula R. Stern is CEO and founder of WritePoint Ltd., a leading technical...
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There is politics, and then there is dirty politics. There are promises made, and broken, on a regular basis when it comes to the world of negotiation, national, and international relations. And yet a recent incident should cause outrage because it deals not with promises, but with manipulation; not with honest negotiation but with deceit and pressure on an ally. Perhaps even, it dips into the decidedly dirty field of spying.
Decades ago, Israeli governments started promising that the city of Maale Adumim could build on land that was to be known as Mevasseret Adumim.Perhaps you may recognize it as E1, another name written on a map that does nothing to give a real picture of what is there...and what is not.
The real picture is the one you see here - of barren mountains that no one ever settled. This is not an Arab village that was destroyed, but the natural growth of a beautiful city that makes the desert bloom. There on the right, you can see the edge of Maale Adumim as it exists today; and there on the left, the barren hilltop of Mevasseret Adumim.
Mevasseret Adumim, like all of Maaleh Adumim, was uninhabited before Israelis started coming to build, plant and develop it. Peace Now once claimed that 60% was owned by Palestinians - nonsense!
They eventually backed down to 0.05% and even there they lack proof for that number. Palestinians once went to the Jordanians to claim the land - the Jordanian courts denied their claim, confirming that the area was state-owned land captured from the Ottoman Empire, mandated by the British, held by the Jordanians, and then conquered and settled by Israel. It is one physical hilltop over from Jerusalem – the only one between the capital of Israel and its suburb, Maale Adumim. Today, Maale Adumim is a sprawling city of close to 45,000 people, perched on several hilltops overlooking Jerusalem to the west and the Dead Sea to the east. It has several large commercial centers including a three story mall, several post offices, many schools for all ages, large recreation areas, a city library, an emergency medical center, ambulance and fire fighting squads that respond not only to the cities needs, but to emergencies that happen for miles all around. According to successive Israeli governments, the borders of Maale Adumim include not only the built-on areas, but several surrounding hills.
This is true of many cities in Israel and is how Israeli cities are designed. First the borders of the municipality are drawn; then they begin developing each area. One has only to travel next to the city of Modiin, for example, to see that the city is in a constant state of growth. So much so, that its residents joke that the city bird is the “crane” for all the massive building cranes that hover over the city.
Like Modiin, Maale Adumim has long been a gathering point for people who want to live near the great city of Jerusalem but welcome the more rural, suburban atmosphere. In fact, the borders of Maale Adumim actually touch the edges of Jerusalem itself – and herein lies the controversy. On the last remaining hilltop between Maale Adumim, Arabs have decided to feel threatened. After thirty years of building, this last hilltop represents the end for them and so they virulently condemn it and threaten violence. In their eyes, building of this one last hill will remove their chances of destroying Maale Adumim itself. Successive American governments have admitted that Maale Adumim will never be evacuated, cannot in any practical way be obliterated, nor should it. Even President Obama admits that adjustments such as including Maale Adumim, must be made for any long term peace agreement to be successful.
And again, we have reached the crux of the matter because what almost every Israeli knows, though not all are willing to admit it – the Palestinian leadership is not interested in a long-term peace agreement. At most, they want hudna – a 10 year cease-fire that their religion allows them to break at any point if it is made with a non-Muslim entity (such as Israel).
Generations have been born on this land. What might have been had the Palestinians accepted the Partition Plan in 1947 or not instigated war after war is irrelevant. The simple fact is that no Israeli government will ever agree to remove close to 50,000 citizens spread over many kilometers from homes and neighborhoods that have grown and prospered for almost 4 decades. There were no houses, no Arab villages on the hills of Maale Adumim before it was built, nor will there ever be in the future. A few days ago, frustrated by the lack of progress and the ongoing broken promises of many governments, some people from Maale Adumim decided to begin building the neighborhood of Mevasseret Adumim on E1 with their own hands. More symbolic than real, this was a message to the Israeli government that it was time to move forward.
The plans for this neighborhood were submitted and approved long ago – a guest house, hundreds of apartments, affordable housing for young couples. Instead, only a police station and some roads have been built there. You can agree or disagree with the unilateral action, though unilateral actions such as the withdrawal from Gaza, the recent opening of the Rafiah border by the Egyptians and the promised declaration of a Palestinian state in September seem to be much more controversial than a dozen teenagers erecting some tents in the middle of an area long since declared as a Jewish neighborhood. What is more interesting and telling, however, is the reaction of the American government and more the actions of the US Consulate in Jerusalem. American officials arrived to review what the teenagers had built.
They took pictures, lied about who they were, though they were stupid enough to arrive in vehicles registered to the US Consulate and did nothing to hide their true identities. A short time later, Israeli security forces arrived to destroy the temporary structures they had built. This is not unexpected and is yet another step in the “game” played by those who wish to make a statement and those who wish to stop them. More sinister, however, is the American visit to the area.
Why did they come there? Why were they taking pictures? Why did they lie about who they were? What business is this lone mountain to these American officals? For the American government, there are questions to be answered – what legal right did they have to visit that location? One wonders how the American government would feel if Israelis started visiting controversial sites in the US in the middle of a sensitive situation? Doesn’t this amount to spying on an ally and trying to influence its internal affairs?
Whose land is it, anyway? For the Israeli government, they should be calling in the US Ambassador to Israel and demanding an explanation. That it fails to do this, suggests the visit was in some way approved, or at very least influential in getting the police to come and disrupt what had been done. One cannot call the police visit so shortly after the American visit a coincidence. Surely , the Israeli government has not outsourced the job of inspecting our land to the Americans, has it? Does the American Consulate now have the right to dictate how the Israeli government treats its citizens and when it chooses to handle internal matters? For all Israelis, this is a wake-up call. Big Brother Obama is watching and wants us to know it. It is the Obama government’s way of putting pressure on all of us, trying to make us believe that which we know is not true.
The future of this land does not rest in Washington’s hands, nor those of the American Consulate. No matter how much they demand it, peace cannot be granted by the threats and blackmail of a line drawn in the sand. What were the Americans doing there?
Why did they come and feel comfortable enough to make their presence obvious? Why did they take pictures? What have they done with them? Why did they feel it necessary to claim they were the police? Those are questions the Netanyahu government must answer. This is an outrage that every Israeli should feel. We are a sovereign nation, not a puppet of Washington.
Those Americans had no business trespassing on land allocated to Maale Adumim in an attempt to influence how and when our government would react. The message to the Americans must be clear: it is NOT your place, not your land, not your plan that will bring peace because the dancing partner you have chosen for us is busy dancing with Hamas.
The message must be made clear to the Netanyahu government: if you are not strong enough to answer the Americans and handle their pressure, you have no business leading this land.
Whose land is it anyway? Every day, as the community in Maale Adumim grows and supports those who stay on E1, we answer that question loudly and clearly.