It may be true that we are in the throes of an election campaign, but not all campaign promises are meant to throw sand in our eyes. When the acting prime minister says we must connect Maale Adumim
to Jerusalem, he means it.
And when he says that this will be done by reinforcing the existing road, but rather by building homes for thousands of people in the area between the two cities – he means it.
Ariel Sharon supported this plan; now his prodigy is running the show. But whereas Sharon hesitated from carrying the plan out, mainly because of U.S. and European pressure, Olmert says the plan will go ahead "despite the pressure," even saying that Yossi Beilin supports the plan.
Perhaps. The Geneva Initiative made its proposals regarding Maale Adumim and the road leading east from Jerusalem. It did not address this issue.
But there are several significant differences between merely connecting these two cities and building up the hilltops to the east of the
capital. It is very convenient for Israeli politicians to overlook these differences because the public demands no details. But in this case, the difference is in the details.
Maale Adumim is situated some 12 sq. kilometers (4.5 sq. miles) and is home to about 30,000 people. It is the largest settlement in the West Bank. By including the area the government wants to fill in, the city limits would be expanded to 63 sq. kilometers (24 sq. miles), an area larger than Tel Aviv, with less than 10 percent of the population of that city.
It is clear, then, that the move is not intended to ensure the security of Maale Adumim, nor is it to secure the route leading from Maale Adumim to Jerusalem. There are other ways to accomplish these goals.
What, then, is the real intention behind the Sharon government's decision that Olmert promises to implement? One look at the regional map shows the real intention: to create a large, clear arrow in the center of the West Bank that will divide the land in two, with basically no connection between the two sections.
It is for exactly this reason that all the other sides involved in the issue and looking to do well for Israel, including the Bush Administration, are opposed to the plan. For even Washington understands that such an Israeli move – if it succeeds – will prevent the emergence of a Palestinian state with territorial contiguity alongside Israel.
Paradoxically, the administration finds itself defending Israel's long-range interests more than the Israeli government itself.
Furthermore: Olmert stresses that at the center of this bubble, on the hilltops between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim, he will carry out a plan to build about 15,000 residential homes and a large police station.
This is the infamous E-1 plan, which includes plans for a large industrial zone, hotels, a garbage dump and a large cemetery to be shared by Jerusalem and Maale Adumim.
This plan, if it comes to pass, will cut off east Jerusalem from its Palestinian surroundings once-and-for-all. This is the real intention of this policy.
The massive bubble is intended to cut the West Bank in two, and the E-1 plan is intended to seal off eastern Jerusalem and cut it off from the West Bank. In either case, and certainly with both together, the plan will nix any possibility of ever reaching an agreement with even the most moderate Palestinians.
After Hamas' election victory, we once again face a situation in which there is "no one to talk to."
But even if the day comes on which there is someone to talk to, there won't be anything left to talk about.
Amos Gil is the director of the Ir Amim