New push to re­draw Jerusalem borders

Trump’s softer stance has em­bold­ened ef­forts to an­nex West Bank ar­eas, re-en­gi­neer de­mo­graph­ics

The Washington Post - - THE WORLD - BY LOVEDAY MOR­RIS AND RUTH EGLASH loveday.mor­ris@wash­ ruth.eglash@wash­ Su­fian Taha con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Since be­com­ing mayor of Maale Adumim more than 20 years ago, Benny Kashriel has doggedly cam­paigned for his com­mu­nity to be rec­og­nized as part of Is­rael.

Now, with Pres­i­dent Trump in the White House, Kashriel thinks it may just hap­pen.

His set­tle­ment is ap­prox­i­mately four miles east of Jerusalem in the oc­cu­pied West Bank. Most of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity con­sid­ers its con­struc­tion to be il­le­gal, built on land cap­tured dur­ing the 1967 war.

Still, it has steadily grown from what be­gan as a clus­ter of pre­fab­ri­cated build­ings erected by 23 fam­i­lies in the 1970s into a bur­geon­ing satel­lite city of Jerusalem. Palm trees line the wide roads of what looks like a Florida sub­urb. Red-roofed houses and high-rises are home to 42,000 peo­ple, who are served by all of the ac­cou­ter­ments of a mod­ern city: schools, restau­rants, cafes and a shop­ping mall.

Ex­pan­sion here is par­tic­u­larly con­tentious be­cause it could cut off Arab ar­eas of East Jerusalem from other Pales­tinian ter­ri­tory and hob­ble the cre­ation of a vi­able Pales­tinian state. Still, Maale Adumim keeps grow­ing. In the in­dus­trial park on its out­skirts, al­ready home to 360 busi­nesses, ground has just been bro­ken on “De­sign City,” a nearly 600,000square-foot, 160-out­let in­te­ri­orde­sign re­tail mall.

While pre­vi­ous U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tions called set­tle­ments an ob­sta­cle to the peace process, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has been more re­strained in pub­licly crit­i­ciz­ing them, a clear break from the fre­quent cen­sure un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama of Is­raeli set­tle­ment ac­tiv­ity.

Em­bold­ened by a more sup­port­ive White House, Is­raeli lead­ers have pro­posed a flurry of bills and procla­ma­tions that seek to an­nex ar­eas of the West Bank and re-en­gi­neer Jerusalem’s de­mo­graphic bal­ance by re­draw­ing the city’s map to ex­clude Arab neigh­bor­hoods and in­clude Is­raeli set­tle­ments.

Last year, Is­raeli law­mak­ers in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion, called the Greater Jerusalem bill, that would ex­pand the city’s mu­nic­i­pal bound­aries to in­clude 19 set­tle­ments, in­clud­ing Maale Adumim. For the mo­ment the bill has stalled, not yet mak­ing it to a vote in the Knes­set, Is­rael’s par­lia­ment. But other ef­forts are un­der­way.

Betty Her­schman, ad­vo­cacy di­rec­tor at Ir Amim, which mon­i­tors de­vel­op­ments in Jerusalem as they re­late to the peace process, said Is­rael has seen a “groundswell of uni­lat­eral pro­pos­als.”

On New Year’s Eve, the cen­tral com­mit­tee of Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu’s rul­ing Likud party adopted a non­bind­ing res­o­lu­tion propos­ing an­nex­a­tion of all West Bank set­tle­ments to Is­rael and al­low­ing un­fet­tered con­struc­tion.

The prime min­is­ter was not present at the gath­er­ing, but Pub­lic Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter Gi­lad Er­dan told the crowd that Trump’s pres­i­dency presents a “his­toric op­por­tu­nity.”

“To­day we have a pres­i­dent in the White House who says ex­plic­itly, yes, he un­der­stands that the ob­sta­cle to peace is Pales­tinian in­cite­ment, not set­tle­ment in Judea and Sa­maria,” he said, em­ploy­ing the names that some Is­raelis use to re­fer to the West Bank. “We must not miss this op­por­tu­nity.”

Some political ob­servers see the Likud ac­tion as mo­ti­vated by do­mes­tic pol­i­tics, a pop­ulist move as Is­raeli elec­tions ap­proach.

But Ha­gai El-Ad, the di­rec­tor of the Is­raeli hu­man rights group B’Tse­lem, said there is a bat­tle un­der­way be­tween those who want to con­tinue “smart oc­cu­pa­tion,” which man­ages to “fly two inches below in­ter­na­tional out­rage” while in­cre­men­tally shift­ing facts on the ground, and those who ad­vo­cate “dumb oc­cu­pa­tion” — mov­ing for­ward with for­mal an­nex­a­tion.

Trump’s pres­i­dency has given new vigor to the lat­ter, he said.

Trump’s recog­ni­tion of Jerusalem as Is­rael’s cap­i­tal, in par­tic­u­lar, was taken by Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans as an en­dorse­ment of Is­rael’s poli­cies.

“They’ve been en­cour­aged by the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion, es­pe­cially af­ter the res­o­lu­tion on Jerusalem,” said Hanan Ashrawi, a mem­ber of the Pales­tine Lib­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion’s ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee. “They feel like they have a free hand now. We are at a very, very crit­i­cal junc­ture.”

In his of­fice in Maale Adumim, Kashriel says the change of at­ti­tude to­ward set­tle­ments un­der the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion was im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent.

All pre­vi­ous U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tions had largely shunned the set­tler com­mu­nity, he said. “They boy­cotted us. They never wanted to meet us,” he said.

But Kashriel was in­vited to Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion in Wash­ing­ton. “I think they wanted to show us there is a change in the at­mos­phere in Wash­ing­ton,” he said. That was fol­lowed by an in­vi­ta­tion to Fourth of July cel­e­bra­tions at the U.S. am­bas­sador’s res­i­dence north of Tel Aviv.

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kush­ner, and his fam­ily are long­time sup­port­ers of Is­raeli set­tle­ments in the West Bank, as is Trump’s am­bas­sador to Is­rael, David M. Friedman.

“So you see that there is change,” Kashriel said. “This is the rea­son now that the Knes­set mem­bers are all the time rais­ing th­ese res­o­lu­tions.”

“The most im­por­tant goal is to strengthen the Jewish ma­jor­ity in Jerusalem,” said In­tel­li­gence Min­is­ter Is­rael Katz, who wrote the text of the Greater Jerusalem bill.

The bill would in­cor­po­rate Jewish set­tle­ments into the city. Jerusalem Af­fairs Min­is­ter Zeev Elkin, who sup­ports the leg­is­la­tion, has made a fur­ther pro­posal. He would like bound­aries of the city’s mu­nic­i­pal­ity re­drawn to split off Arab ar­eas of East Jerusalem that are sep­a­rated from the rest of the city by Is­rael’s sep­a­ra­tion bar­rier, while keep­ing them as part of the state.

A vote in the Knes­set this month made that prospect pos­si­ble while also rais­ing the num­ber of law­mak­ers who would be needed to sup­port a pro­posal to give up Is­raeli sovereignty over any part of the city.

Ar­eas out­side the se­cu­rity wall al­ready have be­come vir­tu­ally law­less. Fur­ther, al­though they are legally part of Jerusalem, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity no longer pro­vides ba­sic ser­vices, cit­ing se­cu­rity rea­sons. But th­ese neigh­bor­hoods are not un­der the con­trol of the Pales­tinian Author­ity, ei­ther.

Is­raeli au­thor­i­ties have turned a blind eye to un­abated Arab con­struc­tion in those neigh­bor­hoods, com­pared with tight re­stric­tions on build­ing per­mits in Arab ar­eas in­side the wall.

Munir Zagheir, a com­mu­nity rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Kafr Aqab, one of the ar­eas Elkin sug­gests re­mov­ing from the mu­nic­i­pal­ity, says there has been a long-term ef­fort to pull Pales­tini­ans out of cen­tral Jerusalem and “empty Arabs to the sides.”

About a mile from Kashriel’s of­fice, 58 Arab Be­douin fam­i­lies live in a ram­shackle col­lec­tion of tents and shacks called Ja­bal al-Baba. At­ta­lah Jahleen, their 42year-old rep­re­sen­ta­tive, said the com­mu­nity’s for­tunes have de­te­ri­o­rated over the past year.

“Be­fore Trump took of­fice, the Amer­i­can con­sulate used to visit us on a reg­u­lar ba­sis,” he said. “Since Trump took over, noth­ing.”

The U.S. Con­sulate in Jerusalem said its staff “con­tin­ues to speak with a wide va­ri­ety of con­tacts in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.”

The fam­i­lies re­ceived evic­tion or­ders late last year, and there have been dozens of de­mo­li­tion or­ders, with Is­raeli au­thor­i­ties at­tempt­ing to re­set­tle them else­where.

Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials, Jahleen said, “have given up on us.”

“They feel like they have a free hand now. We are at a very, very crit­i­cal junc­ture.” Hanan Ashrawi, PLO of­fi­cial


Pales­tinian la­bor­ers work last Fe­bru­ary at a con­struc­tion site in a hous­ing project in the set­tle­ment of Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem. Last year, law­mak­ers in­tro­duced a bill to ex­pand the city’s mu­nic­i­pal bound­aries to in­clude 19 set­tle­ments, in­clud­ing Maale Adumim.

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