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Israel flouts road map with new settlement { August 6 2004 }

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Israel flouts road map with new settlement

Conal Urquhart in Tel Aviv
Friday August 6, 2004
The Guardian

Israel has announced plans for thousands of homes in a new settlement near Jerusalem, ignoring its undertaking in the road map to freeze settlement activity.
The proposed settlement, on 1,518 hectares (3,750 acres) of West Bank land, would be sited between Jerusalem and the settlement of Ma'ale Adumim and provide a bridge between them.

It has been planned secretly for several months and yesterday bulldozers and diggers were preparing roads for fu ture building. The settlement would ring Palestinian east Jerusalem, making it impossible for east Jerusalem to be the capital of a Palestinian state.

Earlier this week the US condemned Israel's announcement that a further 600 homes would be built in Ma'ale Adumim, where 28,000 Israelis live.

The US has also said that Israel has done little to dismantle the illegal outposts which have sprung up in recent years. Britain has also expressed concern at the expansion of settlements in violation of the road map.

Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, sought to assuage US concerns, telling Washington's visiting Middle East envoy, Elliot Abrams there was no plan to link Ma'ale Adumim to Jerusalem.

But Benny Kashriel, Ma'ale Adumim's mayor, told the newspaper Ma'ariv: "Within about six months the planning work in the housing ministry will be complete and then we will be able to present the construction plans for the city to the defence minister for approval."

Last week the Guardian reported that Israel has been quietly expanding the settlements in the past three months. Aerial photographs showing fresh construction were presented to the opposition Labour party.

The new settlement, which has not been given a name, fits in with what analysts believe is Mr Sharon's vision of a two-state solution.

Jerusalem will be transformed into a region encompassing settlements to the north and south. It will border another block of settlements around Modi'in, which will link with the settlements around Ariel. Settlements out side these zones could be abandoned and the Palestinians would be allowed to exercise sovereignty over four disconnected areas around Jenin and Nablus, Ramallah, Jericho, and Hebron and Bethlehem.

An evacuation from Gaza would be the first step in turning this plan into a reality, the analysts believe.

Dror Etkes, the director of Settlement Watch, a group which monitors settlement activity, said there were "massive infrastructure works" between Ma'ale Adumim and Jerusalem, and to the east of Ma'ale Adumim. "The road map is already dead. These projects are designed to ensure it cannot be revived in the foreseeable future," he said.

During a visit to Ma'ale Adumim this week, Shaul Mofaz, the Israeli defence minister, said the settlement, along with the Gush Etzion bloc, would be on the "Israeli side" of the "security fence" which Israel is building in the West Bank.

"I wish for us all settlement contiguity between Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim," he said.

The Palestinians see the plan for the new settlement as another attempt by Israel to limit their ambition for a state.

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, told the Reuters news agency: "This is a flagrant violation of the road map and the promise made by the Israeli government to the Americans."

Diana Buttu, a legal adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said Palestinians had little power to stop Israel, despite a ruling against the Jewish state at the international court of justice.

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