Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Local People, Local Lebensraum
Yesterday AFP ran a well-below-the-fold item about the construction of Nof Hasharon, a 52-home settlement in the west bank. The substance of the piece was largely lifted from an article by Akiva Eldar in Ha'aretz two weeks ago ('After a while, the settlements will annexe the state', 18 November 2004), albeit fattened up with quotations from the Palestinians who happen to live there and local Israelis who oppose the expansion.
At first glance the story is not exactly news. 'Israelis build settlement in west bank'—big deal. But the administrative arrangement cooked up for Nof Hasharon is apparently the first example of what could be a new trend of intergrating settlements between the green line and the separation wall with settlements on the Israeli side the green line—in this case Nirit, "a small communal settlement" founded in 1981. Clear so far? According to Eldar,
"Residents of the new settlement will be hooked up to the water, sewage and electricity networks that Nirit residents built with their own money, and they will send their children to the kindergartens in Nirit. Except property tax will be paid to the Alfei Menashe local council, which is on the other side of both the Green Line and the separation fence. A plot of land in the new neighborhood will cost $50,000, the usual price for land in the territories, as opposed to $160,000, the going rate in Nirit."
How do the people in Nirit feel? According to poll of residents,
"70 percent of the families oppose the construction of the new neighborhood." (Dan Izenberg, 'Israeli community petitions against unwanted West Bank suburb', The Jerusalem Post, 8 November 2004; p. 4)
But it gets more complicated. Eldar quotes a letter from a Major Oded Langerman, an Israeli officer in the west bank, on a meeting with the Alfei Menashe security man thus:
"After most of the neighbourhood is populated, the two neighbourhoods (Nof Hasharon and Nirit) will be linked into a single security zone by taking down the fence that runs along the edge between the two neighborhoods"—i.e., the border recognised by most of the rest of the world.
I needn't tell you the response of the US embassy in Tel Aviv, but I propose a challenge. See if you can battle your way through the following sub-cognitive fog and arrive at the far end in a fit state to be suitably surprised that the de facto revision of international borders and sabotage of a major diplomatic initiative can elicit no detectable concern:
"The government of Israel took decisions in the context of the road map, including a commitment to implement the road map that calls for a freeze on settlement. We are carrying on contacts with the government of Israel to define the meaning of this freeze on the ground. We have made clear to the highest echelons in Israel our expectations regarding implementation of these subjects, and discussions continue. We are tracking developments in regard to specific cases, but cannot relate to these cases."
Well, could you?