Posted by: Lister | January 19, 2008

Palesrael or Israstine

Pick a name, because there is only one state — one government that controls the lives of everyone in the area. There are two kinds of citizen, however:

Take El Khader, only a few minutes drive south of Jerusalem, where the Palestinian conurbation of greater Bethlehem comes up against Route 60, the West Bank’s main north-south highway.

Driving south along the road this week, Israeli rights activist Hagit Ofran pointed out the high concrete wall separating the road, from which most Palestinian vehicles are banned, from the Arab city to the east. Then she gestured towards a large hole being dug on the other side of the road.

“That is going to be a tunnel,” Ms Ofran said. “Five Palestinian villages are now trapped west of the wall and the road, between here and the Israeli border and the Jewish settlements over there.

“So Israel is building a tunnel for the villagers under its road. The tunnel will also have an Israeli checkpoint. If they want to go to Bethlehem, the villagers can wait however long it takes them to get through the checkpoint. If they want to have visitors, they won’t be able to. Only the people who live in those villages will be allowed through. Eighteen thousand people will live only through this tunnel.”

[…] Taken altogether, rights groups and UN observers say, Israel’s West Bank infrastructure is turning the territory into an archipelago of disconnected Arab enclaves, controlled by walls, fences and checkpoints which Palestinian people and goods cannot cross without Israeli military permission.

In the settlements and on the bypass roads, meanwhile, Jewish settlers and visiting Israelis – even foreign tourists with no connection to the land – enjoy freedom of movement and superior rights and protections to the indigenous Palestinians.

President Bush may have spoken forcefully of the need for a contiguous Palestinian territory – “Swiss cheese isn’t going to work when it comes to the territory of a state” – but with at least half of the West Bank land already allocated to settler or Israeli military use, says Israeli rights group B’tselem, there seems to be little room left for a Palestinian state.

Even moderate Palestinians are now asking whether Israel’s introduction of more than 450,000 settlers into the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, in defiance of international opinion and law, has killed off lingering hopes for the Palestinian state which both sides supposedly agreed to in the 1993 Oslo Accords.

Increasingly, there is talk of a “one state solution”, whereby the 3.7 million Palestinians of the occupied territories would reject talk of autonomy and instead demand equal citizenship in the state which in practice controls their lives.

Together with the 1.4 million Arab citizens of Israel, the Palestinians are already approaching in number Israel’s 5.4 million Jews. Palestinian demands for equal rights would therefore pose a deadly threat to the Zionist state’s aim of remaining both Jewish and democratic as even Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, formerly a champion of “Great Israel”, recently warned.

“For me, the one state solution is not a political goal – the Israelis would not accept it – but it’s rapidly becoming a reality,” an independent Palestinian lawmaker and winner of the 2003 Sydney Peace Prize, Hanan Ashrawi, said.

“The settlements and walls and roads and tunnels are the superimposition of an Israeli reality over Palestinian land, a grid put in place to control Palestinian movement, resources and land, that is making it impossible to build a Palestinian state.”

The facts established on the ground, she says, already closely resemble the former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s proposal to impose on the Palestinians a “state” consisting of isolated “cantons”, connected by Israeli-controlled bridges and tunnels.

“Any sane person knows they can’t swallow the land without the people, they can’t expel all of us and they can’t destroy all of us,” Ms Ashrawi said. “What they are condemning us to instead is to occupation that will last for generations.”

While most Israelis blame Palestinian terrorism for the repeated failure of peace initiatives, Palestinians see Israel’s incessant settlement building as proof of its bad faith in past negotiations.

Far from declining with the signing of the Oslo Accords, the pace of settlement growth accelerated dramatically so that there are now three times as many Jews living in the occupied territories as there were in 1993.

[…] A spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Arye Mekel, said: “We do believe that there is a natural growth issue – if a family has another child and needs another room, we approve that.

“If they need a new school, we approve that.”

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