Middle Eastern Tunnel Vision

December 7, 2012 1:08 pm 3 comments

The Ma'ale Adumim municipality. Photo: Avishai Teicher.

Imagine: until the Holland Tunnel was completed in 1927 New York and New Jersey had not been contiguous (defined in Webster’s as “have contact with”). Who knew?

The current Middle Eastern equivalent, generating worldwide outrage, is the projected loss of “contiguity” between the northern and southern West Bank if Israel proceeds with its recently disclosed plan to develop the hilltop area known as E1, between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim to the east. If implemented, furious critics allege, it would bisect the West Bank and doom any prospect of Palestinian statehood.

The Israeli plan has been endlessly excoriated since its announcement following the recent General Assembly vote to admit “Palestine” as a “non-member observer state”. The New York Times, in particular, has been relentless. In a front-page article (December 1), Jodi Rudoren proclaimed the plan a “surprise” that came as a “shock,” revealing Israel’s intention to wage “diplomatic war” over the future of the West Bank.

That was only the beginning. In a subsequent editorial (December 4) the Times lacerated Prime Minister Netanyahu (but not Palestinian Authority President Abbas) for a plan that could “doom the chances for a two-state solution” (which the Palestinians have rejected ever since the UN partition proposal of 1947). The E1 plan was “particularly disturbing” because it “would split the northern and southern parts of the West Bank.” Contiguity would be forever shattered.

The barrage increased a day later. Thomas Friedman ominously warned that “a huge bloc of settlements in the heart of the West Bank” (3000 housing units had been mentioned) would “sever any possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state.” Even Maureen Dowd, not known for her Middle East expertise, inserted in her column about Hilary Clinton a denunciation of Israel for its “brazen and counterproductive action.”

But the “contiguity” complaint is a sham, no matter how frequently it is reiterated. Haven’t critics heard of tunnels? Two centuries ago the Swiss built a 10-mile-long railroad tunnel through the Alps. Israel has a network of highway tunnels in the mountainous Haifa area. Hamas in Gaza is renowned for its tunnel links to Sinai. One need not be a rocket scientist (pun intended) to anticipate that development of E1 will include a tunnel to connect the northern and southern West Bank – also known as Judea and Samaria, the biblical homeland of the Jewish people, where 350,000 Israelis now live.

Critics also need a history lesson. The E1 area, comprising 4.6 square miles of Israeli state-owned land, belongs to Maale Adumim. E1 land is located inside Area C where, under the Oslo II Accords, Israel retains zoning and planning powers. Every prime minister since Yitzhak Rabin has supported its development. If there is any threat to contiguity, wrote Nadav Shagrai in Haaretz (2009), it comes from continuing illegal construction on E1 land by both Palestinians and Beduin.

The contiguity indictment complements the endlessly reiterated, but also false, allegation that Israeli settlements not only doom Palestinian statehood but also violate international law. Israel has legal claims dating back to 1922, when the League of Nations guaranteed to Jews the right of “close settlement” west of the Jordan River. This right was preserved under Article 80 of the United Nations Charter.

Jewish settlement since Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War does not violate international law because no foreign entity previously held legal sovereignty over the West Bank. Nor did Israel coercively “transfer” anyone to that territory, prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949). Settlers have merely followed the precedent set by generations of Zionist pioneers.

The looming crisis is not E1 but Israel’s increasingly precarious security situation. To be sure, Operation “Defensive Pillar” effectively shut down, at least for the moment, the decade-long rain of Hamas rockets. But Hamas, whose charter calls for the obliteration of Israel, has already begun to rebuild the tunnels that facilitate the flow of Iranian weapons into Gaza.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah is generously supplied with even more destructive Iranian missiles. Its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has vowed “open war until the elimination of Israel and until the death of the last Jew on earth.” Given Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threat to eliminate Israel “from the pages of history,” the menace to Israel from the east, especially given recent signs of political instability in Jordan, should not be taken lightly.

These geopolitical dangers are downplayed, if not ignored, by Israel’s critics. Currently obsessed by a tiny tract of land east of Jerusalem, years away from development, which can be traversed through a tunnel or bypassed by a highway, they incessantly berate and delegitimize Israel for settlements that under international law it has every right to build.

As one Israeli succinctly described the current squabble: “We will build and the world will scream.” That noise is the predictable side effect of tunnel vision.

Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of Hebron Jews (2009) and Brothers at War: Israel and the Tragedy of the Altalena (2011)

3 Comments

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Featured Sports World Palestinian Soccer League Withdraws Bid to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Palestinian Soccer League Withdraws Bid to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    The head of Israel’s soccer association called on his Palestinian counterpart to “join forces,” as the Palestinian Football Association withdrew its bid on Friday to have Israel suspended from FIFA. “Let’s leave it to the politicians to do politics,” said Israel Football Association chief Ofer Eini, moments after PFA Chairman Jibril Rajoub announced that his group had withdrawn the proposal. After his remarks, Eini shook hands with the Palestinian soccer chief. Rajoub thanked “those” who convinced him to drop the [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Israeli-American Group Congratulates Cavaliers’ Blatt on Reaching NBA Finals

    Israeli-American Group Congratulates Cavaliers’ Blatt on Reaching NBA Finals

    JNS.org – An organization whose work focuses on the estimated population of 500,000-800,000 Israeli Americans congratulated David Blatt, the Jewish head coach of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Cleveland Cavaliers and a longtime Israel-based coach, for clinching an appearance in the NBA Finals. The Israeli-American Council (IAC), whose stated mission is “to build an active and giving Israeli-American community throughout the United States in order to strengthen the State of Israel, our next generation, and to provide a bridge to [...]

    Read more →
  • Food US & Canada Bacon Flavor Ben & Jerry’s ‘Not Gonna Happen’ Because it Wouldn’t be Kosher

    Bacon Flavor Ben & Jerry’s ‘Not Gonna Happen’ Because it Wouldn’t be Kosher

    Famed ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s will not be introducing a Bacon flavored product to its offerings because the company intends to keep its entire line kosher, Marketing Director Alison Gilbert told AOL’s morning show Rise recently. “It’s kind of funny, a lot of people look for bacon in our ice cream, which is probably not gonna happen because all of our ice cream is kosher,” she said, referring to Jewish dietary restrictions that proscribe the consumption of pig [...]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports Israeli Judo Team Faces Antisemitic Harassment in Morocco: ‘We Will Murder You’

    Israeli Judo Team Faces Antisemitic Harassment in Morocco: ‘We Will Murder You’

    Israeli athletes at a world Judo championship in Morocco reportedly faced antisemitic slurs during the competition, news site WorldNetDaily reported on Monday. “We will murder you,” and “you’re not wanted here, go home,” were among the vituperative attacks directed at the Israeli Judo Association team, which was in Morocco last week for the World Masters Judo Tournament. According to Haaretz, each Israeli teammate was met with boos and jeers upon entering a fight. Additionally, no Israeli flags were present at [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Pop superstar Lady Gaga on Thursday accepted an award from Jewish human rights group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on behalf of her Born This Way Foundation, which strives to combat bullying among young people. “Your philosophies are so in line with ours,” she said of the ADL upon accepting the Making a Difference Award in a videotaped message, which was shown at a ceremony in New York City. “We want to help young people know that their feelings and who they are on [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    JNS.org – Eighty years young, Leonard Cohen fits many descriptions—singer, songwriter, poet, novelist, monk. From his Jewish upbringing in Canada to the present day, Cohen has always explored his spiritual side. This month, the singer-songwriter released the CD (May 12) and iTunes (on May 8 of this year) formats of his latest album, Can’t Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour, which features live recordings from his world tours in 2012 and 2013. Last year, Cohen’s Popular Problems was voted by Rolling Stone [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    JNS.org – Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) head Sepp Blatter said during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that contrary to Palestinian complaints, Israel has not violated any FIFA statutes and should not be suspended from international soccer’s governing body. “We should not come to one federation saying we will exclude them,” said Blatter, the Jerusalem Post reported. “If the national association is fulfilling its obligations then there is no need to intervene,” he said. “I’m on a [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Middle East Sports Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) said on Tuesday it was “appalled” by a Palestinian Football Association initiative to suspend Israel from FIFA, calling it another “front waged in the context of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign.” “We are appalled at the temerity of the Palestinan Football Association (PFA) demand that FIFA suspend Israel at your forthcoming Congress in Zurich,” wrote the group’s international relations director, Dr. Shimon Samuels, in a letter to FIFA President Joseph [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.