Monday, May 23, 2011

Time to Go to School on E-1

Figures. When I was in Israel, I didn't blog about our tour of Jerusalem, courtesy of Ir Amim's Danny Seidemann. For anyone who has met Danny or seen him interviewed, you know that he is a force of nature, in the way only an excited little Jewish lawyer from New York can be.What you really need to know about him is that he is the expert's expert, the go to guy on the political geography of Jerusalem. He related so much information with so much enthusiasm that while I knew I would absorb the tenor of his presentation delivered at a half dozen points around East Jerusalem, I was actually concerned about being able to retain all of the details. So I took notes. On a tour. Of Jerusalem. On a beautiful day. Like I would keep them.

One of the stops we made was on the Mount of Olives, where lies my favorite view in Israel. Looking west from up high you see the whole of Jerusalem, from the Old City, where the Dome of the Rock dominates, to Yemin Moshe and Montefiore's Windmill, on to Rehavia, and eventually past the outskirts of the city. Turn east and you see the great expanse of the Judean Desert open before your eyes. So what you have is the beauty of Jerusalem tumbling from the edge of the world into the desert landscape of soft brown hills.

It was at this spot that Seidemann explained to us the import of E-1. Somehow, miraculously I have my notes. Because while I remember the significance of the land spreading east just below us, I couldn't recall the words Seidemann used to express his concern about the past and possible future attempts to build settlements in this area. Heart Attack. He said allowing settlement construction in this area would be the "fatal heart attack of the two-state solution." The reason is simple. If you take a look at the map above, you can see that a Jewish settlement in this zone would completely seal off the Palestinian areas of East Jerusalem from the West Bank, making a contiguous Palestinian presence there impossible. And it wasn't just the words he used that got the point across. It was the absolute urgency and conviction with which he spoke them. The words I had forgotten, but not his dire warning. Building here would be the death knell of the two state solution.

So fast forward a month later and before I headed to the train this evening I checked the internet and saw this:
Rightist activists attempted to set up a new farm in the contentious E1 area, near the settlement of Maale Adumim, in an apparent bid to provoke and embarrass Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is currently in Washington. 
Apparently riot police stopped the settlers; although the settlers announced that this was only the opening shot. Don't know where this is headed, but it's a good time to get up to speed on the issue. Ir Amim's website is a good place start.

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