By Daphna Golan
Wed., May 06, 2009
It's to be hoped that the White House gets a subscription to one of the local Jerusalem newspapers ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Washington. Simply leafing through the giant advertisements would save American and Israeli taxpayers significant amounts of time, money and grief.
Israel has long promised there would be no new construction in West Bank settlements. President Shimon Peres reiterated this promise recently to Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, whose country currently holds the European Union presidency. Topolanek, in turn, promised to work to improve Israeli-European relations. Netanyahu, during his U.S. visit, is certain to repeat the same lies uttered by Peres.
Yet this week, a Jerusalem daily promised that any Israeli factory willing to move to the settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim would benefit in three ways. First is the community's "Ideal location," ten minutes from Jerusalem. The map featured in the ad shows only Israeli communities as recommended sites for factory owners to build in - no Palestinian communities, even those next door to the settlements.
The second advantage is accessibility. In case the Americans do not understand, the significance of this is that Israel has built roads for Israelis alone to use, so they can live and work in the occupied territories without having to come across Palestinians. Route 443 was paved for the sake of accessibility to Ma'aleh Adumim. The state assured the High Court of Justice that the road - built on lands expropriated from Palestinians - was intended for the benefit of the "local population." But in stark contrast to that pledge, the road is open to Israelis only.
Third, the advertisement promises the same tax deductions as in "National Priority Area A," adding: "Ma'aleh Adumim's industrial park has the largest land reserves in the Jerusalem area.
The plots are available for allocation at attractive prices." This is the same area that Israel had promised not to develop, in order to someday allow Palestinians to travel freely between the northern and southern West Bank.
And if anyone in the White House or the EU thinks the building in Ma'aleh Adumim is an exception to the rule, the enormous notices in the Jerusalem papers testify to new construction in all the occupied territories around Jerusalem.
There is, for example, a "golden opportunity" in Har Homa, but no mention is made of the Palestinians on whose land the houses are being built. Nor is there mention of the neighboring village of Nuaman, whose lands were annexed to Jerusalem but whose residents hold Palestinian identity cards, and are therefore classified as illegal residents in their own homes.
The separation fence imprisons Nuaman's residents and separates them both from Jerusalem - from which they are barred entirely - and from the West Bank, to which they can travel only when their checkpoint is opened.
An ad for "a project born with a silver spoon" features a model apartment, but makes no mention of nearby Sur Baher, Umm Tuba, Abu Dis and Beit Sahour. These Palestinian neighborhoods and villages, some of them under the municipal jurisdiction of Jerusalem, have vanished not only from the map printed in the newspaper, but from the consciousness of the Israeli government, which has not seen fit to offer the Palestinians a zoning plan that would allow them to build, pave roads and erect schools.
Today, when American taxpayers are being forced to deal with cutbacks, we can spare them the money they invest in the construction and maintenance of the settlements.
Instead of investing time and resources in attempting to understand why Israel insists on building roads, neighborhoods and settlements for Israelis only, the White House could obtain a yearly subscription to one of the Jerusalem dailies.
It could also inform the Israeli prime minister and his cohorts that they will be welcome to come and discuss continued American support once construction for Israelis in the occupied territories has truly come to an end.
The writer teaches law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem