Netanyahu didn’t invent the E-1 dealbreaker that’s got the world so mad at him; it goes back to Rabin and reflects overwhelming Israeli opinion.
Except for right wingers, people look at the outrage over Bibi’s revival of the E-1 plan, which would connect Jerusalem and the eastward Ma’aleh Adumim settlement with thousands of new homes, and say: Well, that’s Bibi for you, picking fights for no good reason. Who needs more settlement construction?
But if you ask them – “them” meaning all but the left-wing fringe among Israeli Jews and the country’s supporters abroad – whether they’re willing to give up Ma’aleh Adumin and its 40,000 settlers in a peace deal with the Palestinians, they’ll say hell no.
Ma’aleh Adumim, 4.5 kilometers east of Jerusalem, built in 1975, is not only “within the national consensus,” it is deep in the heart of the national consensus. Ma’aleh Adumim is thought of, correctly, as a suburb of Jerusalem; the people aren’t popularly regarded as settlers but as average middle-class Israelis; in past elections, a decent percentage of them voted Labor, and a few even voted Meretz.
It’s not one of those “tiny, isolated settlements,” it’s a “settlement bloc,” it’s one of the “Jerusalem-area” settlements, it “protects Jerusalem” by being on the high ground nearby, it gives Israel “defensible borders” – it’s a Jerusalem security defensible borders settlement bloc with 40,000 people, for fuck’s sake, do you want to give that up, are you crazy?
And here’s the thing – to keep Ma’aleh Adumim, Israel has to build E-1, those thousands of homes connecting it to Jerusalem, because otherwise the only thing connecting it to the capital will be a thin highway with nothing but Palestine on either side. Indefensible. Not viable. Ma’aleh Adumim would be isolated. So if you want to keep it – and who doesn’t, except the left-wing fringe? – you have to build E-1, like Bibi says.
But not just Bibi – every one of his predecessors insisted on keeping Ma’aleh Adumim. As the right-wing Jerusalem Post pointed out in an editorial titled “The Logic of E-1”:
In October 1994, while in the midst of hammering out the Oslo Accords, then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin declared that a “united Jerusalem” would include Ma’aleh Adumim as the capital of Israel under Israel sovereignty. As part of the effort to make sure Ma’aleh Adumim remained an integral part of a “united Jerusalem,” Rabin provided then-mayor Benny Kashriel with annexation documents for the E1 area –a strip of land that connects the capital with Ma’aleh Adumim.
As prime minister in 1996, Shimon Peres reaffirmed the government’s position that Israel will demand applying Israeli sovereignty over Ma’aleh Adumim in the framework of a permanent peace agreement. Dovish politician and co-author of the Geneva Initiative, Yossi Beilin, supported annexing Ma’aleh Adumim. And the 2000 Clinton Parameters called for Israel to be compensated for the partitioning of Jerusalem by annexing Ma’aleh Adumim.
During the 2008 Annapolis negotiations, then-prime minister Ehud Olmert and then-foreign minister Tzipi Livni demanded that Ma’aleh Adumim remain a part of Israel.
To paraphrase what other members of the left-wing fringe have been saying, the problem with Ma’aleh Adumim is that it can’t be smoothly annexed as part of a land swap with the Palestinians, as might be done with Alfei Menashe, Modi’in Illit, Beitar Illit and some other large settlements. No, to annex Ma’aleh Adumim, it first has to be connected to “Jewish Jerusalem,” and doing that requires building thousands of Jewish homes in the present gap. What is the significance of that? As Noam Sheizaf writes:
It is the final brick in the great project Likud and Kadima prime ministers have been carrying out in the last two decades, which is designed to encircle the Palestinian part of Jerusalem with Israeli settlements and neighborhoods in such a way that would permanently prevent any division of the city, or any other territorial compromise, for that matter.
Ramallah and Bethlehem would be cut off from the capital [by E-1], making the contiguous Palestinian state endorsed by the United Nations last week virtually impossible.”
This is the price of keeping Ma’aleh Adumim. This is the price that not only Netanyahu but Olmert, Barak, Peres and Rabin before him demanded the Palestinians pay, and this is the true heart of the Israeli consensus: No to a Palestinian state, no to a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem.
Things may change one day, but so far that’s been the extent of Israel’s “generous” peace offers. Unfortunately, the country’s blindness and arrogance toward the Palestinians didn’t begin with Bibi.