Israel’s ‘Greater Jerusalem’ will ‘annihilate’ two-state solution, warn Palestinians

Israel’s ‘Greater Jerusalem’ will ‘annihilate’ two-state solution, warn Palestinians
Buildings are seen under construction in the Israeli settlement of Pisgat Zeev in front of the Israeli barrier separating Jerusalem to the West Bank city of Ramallah on the background on October 26, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 31 October 2017

Israel’s ‘Greater Jerusalem’ will ‘annihilate’ two-state solution, warn Palestinians

Israel’s ‘Greater Jerusalem’ will ‘annihilate’ two-state solution, warn Palestinians

AMMAN: Palestine’s leading expert on Israel’s settlement activities, Khalil Tafakji, has warned that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to connect settlements blocks to Jerusalem’s municipality — the “Greater Jerusalem” project — will destroy any hope of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Israel’s Channel 11 said on Sunday that Netanyahu is working on a plan, initiated by Likud MK Yoav Kisch this summer, to remove Palestinian neighborhoods from Jerusalem municipality so that they are run independently, while at the same time introducing major settlement blocks into the municipality.
Tafakji, the director of the mapping and geographic information systems department in Jerusalem’s Arab Studies Society, claimed the Greater Jerusalem project has so far been delayed by “US pressure,” but aims to connect three major settlement blocks: Gush Etzion to the south, consisting of 14 settlements; Ma’ale Adumim to the east, which extends all the way to the Jordan Valley and consists of eight settlements; and Givat Ze’ev to the northwest, made up of five settlements.
The temporarily suspended Israeli proposal would mean that residents of those settlements would be able to vote in Jerusalem’s municipal elections, but the settlements would not be under full Israeli sovereignty.
If Netanyahu succeeds in his ambitions, Tafakji said: “It will literally divide the occupied territories into enclaves that are totally unconnected to each other except through Israeli roads and tunnels. This would annihilate any remote chance of a two-state solution.”
In a press conference held in Ramallah on Thursday, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi called on the international community to “hold Israel accountable” for its actions.
“Undoubtedly, Israel is in the business of prolonging the military occupation and not ending it, legalizing the presence of extremist Jewish settlers on Palestinian soil, and completing the total isolation and annexation of Palestinian Jerusalem,” she said. “Such efforts represent the end of the two-state solution.”
Other PLO executive committee members contacted by Arab News echoed Ashrawi’s sentiment.
Tafakji noted that Israel is also embarking on the construction of several tunnels and an airport in the occupied territories, which he claimed would be set to accommodate 35 million travelers a year.
“They have set aside 800 million shekels ($227 million) to build a tunnel in the Shufat area of Jerusalem, with another tunnel planned under the Kalandia checkpoint that will allow settlers to travel from settlements in Ramallah to Tel Aviv without stopping at any checkpoints.” Only Israelis will be able to use these tunnels, he added.
Israel’s aggressive expansion plans come as no surprise to Tafakji, who said he believes that “not one day” has passed when the Israelis were not planning to take over East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied territories.
“They always plan but they execute their plans based on political conditions,” he told Arab News. “They may suspend a plan here and there, but their goal is very clear: They want the land without the people.”