I am horrified by much that the new, racist, right-wing government in Israel is doing, especially its assault on the courts, but there is one controversial policy it is pursuing which does not bother me at all —- developing new housing on a piece of land that is just east of Jerusalem, commonly referred to as E-1.
Opponents of building on E-1 have perpetrated a number of myths which the press has picked up and reported as truth. Because I question at least two of these myths and find myself supporting E-1, I thought that I would try to analyze them objectively.
In order to explain why I support building on E-1, it is necessary to examine two things. The first is simple geography, something that can largely be explained by a map.
E-1 is a large (over 46 square kilometers — roughly 18 square miles), oddly-shaped piece of land.. A small branch of E-1 on the southwest is shaped like a boot. It connects Jerusalem suburb, Ma’ale Adumim, to the Mount of Olives, which, after the 1976 war, was annexed and is now, under Israeli law, part of Jerusalem. Almost 40,000 Jews and less than 100 Arabs live in Ma’ale Adumim, which is considered a “settlement”.
The northwest portion of E-1 connects Ma’ale Adumim to Mount Scopes. Mount Scopes is a short walk north of Jerusalem’s Old City. It abuts the Green Line (the 1949 armistice line, sometimes referred to as the 1967 border), and was annexed as part of Jerusalem, like Jerusalem’s Old City and the Mount of Olives.
Since Ma’ale Adumim connects to Jerusalem to the southwest, together, Mount Scopus, E-1, and Ma’ale Adumim complete a semicircle on the eastern side of Jerusalem.
The second set of facts which bring me to my conclusion is historical. In 1993, Israel, represented by its Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and the PLO’s Yasser Arafat entered into the Oslo Accords. The two men famously shook hands at the White House in front of American President Bill Clinton. Arafat then became the first President of the Palestinian Authority.
Arafat went back to Ramallah, where he came under heavy criticism from Arab states for entering into the Oslo Accords. Subsequently, he gave a speech in Cairo in which he said that the whole point of his entering into the Accords was to regain Arab control of Jerusalem.
Rabin, in contrast, went back to Jerusalem and created E-1. Rabin is often characterized as a man of peace. At Rabin’s funeral, Clinton referred to him as his “haver” — the Hebrew word for friend. Rabin saw no inconsistency between building on E-1 and effecting a two-state solution.
Rabin was an old tank man. He was the head of the IDF in 1967, when it recovered Jerusalem’s Old City and drove the Jordanian army back across the Jordan River. He was an advisor to Prime Minister Golda Meir in 1973, the year the Yom Kippur war broke out. Both the 1967 war and the 1973 were were, largely, tank wars. Thus, it made perfect sense for Rabin to think in terms of protecting Jerusalem from a tank attack from the east.
Much has changed since 1993. The next war, which may well come soon, will NOT be a tank war. Today, it is missiles which can be fired from far away that are the major threat to Israel. Still, the idea of a ring of suburbs around Jerusalem seems perfectly reasonable to me.
Which brings me to the myths. The first myth is that developing E-1 will bisect a future Palestinian State. That is simply untrue, as a look at a map indicates. Indeed, the Palestinian State will be much wider than Israel is along the Mediterranean coast north of Tel Aviv. Additionally, it would be a very simple matter to expand the existing road which leads from Jerusalem to Jericho in order to allow Palestinians access to Al Aqsa and Northeastern Jerusalem.
The second myth is that developing E-1 will endanger a two-state solution. Unfortunately, there is no hope for a two-state solution until the threat to Israel from Iran and the terrorists still exists, since they reject a two-state solution completely as a matter of religion. Moreover, Palestinians like Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, insist that in any two-state solution, the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount (what Palestinians call al-Harem al-Sharif), must be part of a Palestinian State.. Since Jews have lived in Jerusalem’s Old City for 3,000 years, that is not about to happen without Israel losing a major war.
Under these circumstances, I see no reason why building on E-1 should not proceed.