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Pushback: Israel withholds Palestinian revenue, approves new settlements

The Israeli moves came in response to the Palestinians’ successful bid to be recognized at the United Nations as a state. 

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If an additional 3,000 tenders are issued by Jan. 1, tenders this year would total more than 6,000, far outstripping the second-highest annual total of the past decade – 2,512 in 2003, under former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

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Splitting the West Bank

But more concerning to peace proponents was a separate Israeli move to advance plans to develop a bubble of land east of Jerusalem known as E1.

The area, if developed, would connect East Jerusalem to the largest Israeli settlement, Maale Adumim, which stretches deep into the West Bank. Such a bloc of Israeli-controlled territory would divide the northern half of the West Bank from the southern half, and separate both halves from East Jerusalem. See map (pdf).

Critics say that would make it impractical, if not impossible, to establish a viable Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem.

“No move has dictated the borders of Israel-Palestine more conclusively than E1 because this is not something that is incremental,” says Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli attorney and founder of Terrestrial Jerusalem, which tracks developments that could jeopardize a two-state solution. “This is a game changer, and possibly a game ender.”

'Occupied' or 'disputed'?

Israel conquered East Jerusalem and the West Bank in the 1967 war against its Arab neighbors. It has since annexed East Jerusalem and declared Jerusalem to be its eternal and undivided capital. Palestinians refer to the West Bank as occupied and rightfully theirs; after all, accepting a state on pre-1967 borders amounts to only 22 percent of historic Palestine, they say.

But Netanyahu’s government has taken to calling the territory “disputed,” and cast the UN vote as unilaterally declaring Palestinian territory to include everything within the pre-1967 borders instead of resolving the precise territory in final-status negotiations as called for by the 1993 Oslo Accords.

“It’s taking the territorial parameter and defining the territorial parameter without the Palestinians having to give up on anything – refugees, demilitarization, any of the issues that are important to us,” says Mark Regev, spokesman for the prime minister’s office.

But Palestinians say that Israel’s steady encroachment on East Jerusalem and the West Bank, where the population of Israelis has roughly doubled to more than 500,000 since Oslo, is blatant unilateralism.

Israel did not explicitly agree to halt settlement construction in previous peace blueprints. But in the so-called Oslo II agreement of 1995, it was agreed that “the two sides view the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single territorial unit, the integrity and status of which will be preserved during the interim period.”

Palestinians and their supporters argue that the growth of settlements, and related infrastructure such as roads, are undermining the integrity of the West Bank – and thus the prospects for a two-state solution.

“I don’t see settlement activity as compatible” with that part of Oslo II, says Mr. Seidemann. “For me this is all about pizza…. You order a pizza, and the pizza comes, and then you talk about how do you divide the pizza – except that one side can eat the pizza while the negotiations are going on. Does that augur well for a fair division of the pizza?”


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