By Samar Assad
October 1st, 2007
As Palestinians and the international community exert effort in order to guarantee a successful mid-November peace meeting, Israel has focused its attention on another matter. Ahead of the planned high-level talks, Israel has published maps that reveal a change in the route of its Separation Wall. The new maps, published on Israel’s Ministry of Defense website, show a significant increase in the length of the Wall to allow the annexation of large tracts of Palestinian land. According to a recent assessment report by the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department, the new route will annex 12 percent of the West Bank. The change to the Wall’s route and the planned expansion of settlements will place 46 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli control.
The Wall’s New Route
Israel claims the new route will annex “only” 8-7 percent of the West Bank. However, a study of the Israeli maps by the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department, which employs experienced experts in all fields, concluded that an additional 9 -12 percent of West Bank land will be annexed to Israel as a result of the new route. The Wall will stretch an additional 5 percent east of the Green Line in the area of the Modi’in Illit settlement bloc. The change in course will force 20,000 Palestinians in five villages to live between two walls creating another Palestinian ghetto.
The route will annex vast tracts of Palestinian land south of the West Bank, specifically in the Dead Sea area. The new route will put Ein Gedi Springs and the Mizpe Shalem settlement on the Israeli side of the wall, thus annexing approximately 2.6 percent of land near the Dead Sea to Israel.
In addition to the 2.6 percent of land in the Dead Sea area, the new route will encompass the Latrun Valley and East Jerusalem which comprise 2 percent of the West Bank; the Ariel and Kedumim Finger, which comprise 2.2 percent of the West Bank; and settlements east of the Wall which give Israel an additional 8 percent of the West Bank.
The Jordan Valley and West Bank Settler Population
The Jordan Valley sits on 26 percent of the West Bank, which Israel seeks to annex. Currently, Jewish settlements in the Jordan Valley have almost complete control of the area, which limits Palestinians use or development of the land.
The route change will allow 87 percent of settlers, more than 398,000 inhabitants, to remain in their settlements and become part of Israel. Furthermore, the new route will allow Israel to expand the illegal settlement blocs since they will be in “Israel” rather than in the Occupied Palestinian Territory after they have been annexed.
Percentage and Impact
Palestinian negotiators have long realized that negotiating over percentages does not guarantee the best outcome. As in all real estate deals, location is the prime rule. Although the Ariel and Kedumim Finger comprise 2.2 percent of the area, it contains the richest sources of water in the West Bank. And while East Jerusalem sits on 1.3 percent of the West Bank, it is the economic, cultural and religious center of Palestinian life. Furthermore, the new route reinforces the isolation of East Jerusalem from the West Bank. The Wall will separate 255,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites from the West Bank and more than 2 million Palestinians living on the “East side,” or the Palestinian side of the Wall, will be cut off from Jerusalem.
The new route reinforces the creation of Palestinian ghettos in the northern, central and southern West Bank. It also reinforces religious inaccessibility to holy sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Mainly, the new route reinforces Israel’s race to create facts on the ground that further complicate efforts toward the creation of a viable Palestinian state.
Samar Assad is Executive Director of the Jerusalem Fund and its educational program, the Palestine Center. The above text does not necessarily reflect the views of The Jerusalem Fund.