Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Segregated Road to Ruin

IMAGINE a road divided down its length by a barrier imposing racial segregation. South Africa and the Southern USA only managed segregated transport, but Israel (which we mustn't dub 'Apartheid'!) has gone a step further.

Sounds crazy. But there's a method in their madness. Though madness it still is. Anyway, here's a report in the New York Times from Steven Erlanger (extracts):

August 11, 2007
A Segregated Road in an Already Divided Land
JERUSALEM, Aug. 10 — Israel is constructing a road through the West Bank, east of Jerusalem, that will allow both Israelis and Palestinians to travel along it — separately.
There are two pairs of lanes, one for each tribe, separated by a tall wall of concrete patterned to look like Jerusalem stones, an effort at beautification indicating that the road is meant to be permanent. The Israeli side has various exits; the Palestinian side has few.
The point of the road, according to those who planned it under former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, is to permit Israel to build more settlements around East Jerusalem, cutting the city off from the West Bank, but allowing Palestinians to travel unimpeded north and south through Israeli-held land.
“The Americans demanded from Sharon contiguity for a Palestinian state,” said Shaul Arieli, a reserve colonel in the army who participated in the 2000 Camp David negotiations and specializes in maps. “This road was Sharon’s answer, to build a road for Palestinians between Ramallah and Bethlehem but not to Jerusalem. This was how to connect the West Bank while keeping Jerusalem united and not giving Palestinians any blanket permission to enter East Jerusalem.”
Mr. Sharon talked of “transportational contiguity” for Palestinians in a future Palestinian state, meaning that although Israeli settlements would jut into the area, Palestinian cars on the road would pass unimpeded through Israeli-controlled territory and even cross through areas enclosed by the Israeli separation barrier.
The vast majority of Palestinians, unlike Israeli settlers, will not be able to exit in areas surrounded by the barrier or travel into Jerusalem, even into the eastern part of the city, which Israel took over in 1967.
The road does that by having Palestinian traffic continue through underpasses and over bridges, while Israeli traffic will have interchanges allowing turns onto access roads. Palestinians with Israeli identity cards or special permits for Jerusalem will be able to use the Israeli side of the road.
The government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has recently made conciliatory gestures to the Palestinians and says it wants to do what it can to ease the creation of a Palestinian state. But Mr. Olmert, like Mr. Sharon, has said that Israel intends to keep the land to the east of Jerusalem.
To Daniel Seidemann, a lawyer who advises an Israeli advocacy group called Ir Amim, which works for Israeli-Palestinian cooperation in Jerusalem, the road suggests an ominous map of the future. It is one in which Israel keeps nearly all of East Jerusalem and a ring of Israeli settlements surrounding it, providing a cordon of Israelis between largely Arab East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, which will become part of a future Palestinian state.
In a final settlement, Israel is expected to offer the Palestinians land swaps elsewhere to compensate.
The road will allow Israeli settlers living in the north, near Ramallah, to move quickly into Jerusalem, protected from the Palestinians who surround them. It also helps ensure that the large settlement of Maale Adumim — a suburb of 32,000 people east of Jerusalem, where most of its residents work — will remain under Israeli control, along with the currently empty area of 4.6 square miles known as E1, between Maale Adumim and Jerusalem, which Israel also intends to keep.

For the Palestinians, the road will connect the northern and southern parts of the West Bank. In a future that may have fewer checkpoints, they could travel directly from Ramallah north of Jerusalem to Bethlehem south of it — but without being allowed to enter either Jerusalem or the Maale Adumim settlement bloc.
“To me, this road is a move to create borders, to change final status,” Mr. Seidemann said, referring to unresolved issues regarding borders, refugees and the fate of Jerusalem. “It’s to allow Maale Adumim and E1 into Jerusalem but be able to say, ‘See, we’re treating the Palestinians well — there’s geographical contiguity.’ ”

Khalil Tufakji, a prominent Palestinian geographer, says the road “is part of Sharon’s plan: two states in one state, so the Israelis and the Palestinians each have their own roads.” The Palestinians, Mr. Tufakji said, “will have no connection with the Israelis, but travel through tunnels and over bridges, while the Israelis will travel through Palestinian land without seeing an Arab.”
In the end, he said, “there is no Palestinian state, even though the Israelis speak of one.” Instead, he said, “there will be a settler state and a Palestinian built-up area, divided into three sectors, cut by fingers of Israeli settlement and connected only by narrow roads.”
Mr. Tufakji said he had become cynical about the way Israel builds for the future it defines, no matter what it promises Washington. He sees a West Bank divided into three parts by Israeli settlement blocs, the most important of which are Maale Adumim and E1, around the capital that both peoples claim as their own. “Israel is building the infrastructure to keep E1, to surround Jerusalem,” he said. “They are working to have an area of minimum Palestinians and maximum Israelis
Read full article, with illustration:

While the talk about "peace" and "two states" goes back and forth, we are told that a reasonable offer may be possible if only Palestinians are prepared to "recognise Israel" (but they are required to recognise it was right all along, thus abandoning their own struggle's claim to legitimacy, rather than merely accept it as a fact). But meanwhile Israel goes ahead creating facts on the ground, taking measures designed to establish for all time its own supremacy.

It's ironic that British and American governments still talk about a "road map for peace". The real road map that is emerging, with separate roads and now a road that is segregated, is headed somewhere else. There is method in the Israeli authorities' madness. Very clever use of topography and now topology too, -what a wonderful exercise for students to make their project. But with the perpective that one nation can just displace or rule over another, for ever, while its defenders still inist it only wants peace, madness it certainly is.

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