By Ted Belman
Beneath the radar, something is happening. As we know, when diplomats speak, they rarely tell the truth, They try to create impressions that serve their purposes. So we must listen to them carefully.
One of the reasons that a declaration of principles was not agreed to was the question of settlements. Saeb Erekat demanded “Olmert has to understand he either declares a full settlement freeze in all occupied areas including East Jerusalem, or it’s nothing.” Olmert for his part said Israel would remove “illegal outposts”, which are Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank that are not authorised by Israel. He said Israel would not build more settlements, but stopped short of announcing a freeze of activity in all settlements.
Since then Olmert announced that 306 housing would go ahead in Har Homa and Rice went through the motions of complaining. Israeli officials got brownie points for ignoring her and insisting that the project would go ahead. We haven’t heard from Rice on this matter since.
And now we read Pre-State Jerusalem Neighborhood to be Renewed
Israel’s Housing Ministry has begun renewing the Jewish neighborhood of Atarot in northeastern Jerusalem which was destroyed by the Arabs in 1948 and liberated by Israel in 1967.
The existence of the plan was revealed by a Haaretz report and confirmed by the Housing Ministry. The neighborhood is in or adjacent to the area of land that was the subject of an article published on Arutz-7 on JNF land being grabbed by Arab squatters.
“Housing Minister Ze’ev Boim has given the green light for planning a new Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem, despite the fact that senior American officials say Israel had promised not to move forward with the project,” Haaretz reported, proudly saying its report earlier this year on the plan had elicited pressure from the US State Department to shelve it. Boim met with Israel Lands Administration head Ya’akov Efrati to finalize the permit last week.
Atarot’s land was owned by Jews since the early 1900s.
The new neighborhood will consist of 10,000-15,000 housing units – constituting the largest neighborhood built in Jerusalem’s eastern side since it was liberated in 1967. It is adjacent to the Atarot Industrial Zone, Jerusalem’s largest industrial park, with 160 factories and businesses.
In 1914, the site was settled by Zionist youth of the Second Aliyah, including Levi Eshkol, who later served as Prime Minister. They erected a communal farm called Moshav Atarot, which was destroyed by the Jordanians during the 1948 War of Independence and the land occupied for the next 19 years.
Following the 1967 Six Day War, Atarot was returned to Jewish hands. A British air strip built atop the Jewish farmland during the British Mandate became the Atarot Airport, Jerusalem’s only civilian air strip.
After Yitzhak Rabin’s government created the Palestinian Authority and granted it tens of thousands of assault rifles, sniper fire forced the airport to close down at the start of the Oslo War in 2000.
The master plan for the neighborhood reportedly includes a tunnel linking it to the Binyamin community of Tel Zion.
I suspect also that the US will limit itself to a formal complaint.
We also hear today from Deputy PM Ramon who proposes to Swap Pre-1967 Land With PA. Thus the Kadimah government is supporting Lieberman’s idea of giving up Arab areas in Israel in exchange for the areas around Jerusalem that Israel keeps.
What I think is happening is that Olmert is proceeding according to agreement with Rice. They feel that if Israel doesn’t get more territory around Jerusalem for housing, Israelis will be less likely to approve of giving away Arab sectors.
Furthermore Israel is now getting more aggressive in Gaza militarily and economically with hardly a peep from Rice or the EU for that matter. No doubt this is also with their approval as they want Hamas to be defeated.
Now what is happening in E1 and Maaleh Adumin?