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Ten years after Camp David, Israel has made peace even harder

A decade after the failed accords at Camp David, a just peace is still possible, but only if Western leaders act to end Israel’s discriminatory policies toward Palestinians.

By Ben White / July 26, 2010

East Jerusalem

In an interview earlier this year with The Jerusalem Post, one of the Jewish settlers in Sheikh Jarrah, an area in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem where Palestinians are being evicted from their homes, explained that he had no “personal problems” with “the Arabs” – but insisted that “they have to admit who the landlord is here.”

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This sentiment offers more insight into the current realities on the ground in East Jerusalem, and Palestine/Israel in general, than dozens of column inches spent analyzing the progress of “shuttle diplomacy,” “concessions,” and “indirect talks.”

This summer marks 10 years since the failed Camp David talks held under President Clinton’s leadership, when Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat returned home without a conclusive deal.

In September, it will also be a decade since the Second Intifada began with Palestinians being shot down in Jerusalem, protesting the visit of Ariel Sharon and his enormous security entourage to al-Haram ash-Sharif/Temple Mount.

After Camp David, Jerusalem was highlighted as one of the thorniest so-called final status issues blocking an Israeli-Palestinian deal. Now, as the peace process stalls and stutters, “facts on the ground” in illegally-annexed East Jerusalem mean that talk of a Palestinian capital in the eastern part of the city is fantasy.

In the more than 40 years that Israel has militarily occupied the West Bank, the Green Line – Israel’s pre-1967 borders – has been erased by the likes of illegal settlements, and road networks. Nowhere is this absorption of the Occupied Territories more apparent than in East Jerusalem, where close to 200,000 Israelis live in illegal settlements built in municipal boundaries that were expanded by Israel to include West Bank land.

Reality in East Jerusalem in 2010 means municipal policies – supported by the Israeli state – that fly in the face of international law: Palestinian homes are demolished, the illegal separation wall carves up Palestinian neighborhoods, and residency rights are revoked.

The gaping disparity between Israeli officials’ rhetoric in the West and their practice on the ground is no starker than in East Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat assure journalists and diplomats that the city is “open” and “free” for all its inhabitants, the facts tell a different story – one of exclusion and discriminatory municipal policies.