In an interview with Israeli Channel Two television Wednesday — his first since taking on the role of acting Prime Minister after Ariel Sharon’s stroke in early January, Ehud Olmert described a plan that would be in violation of all previous peace agreements made with the Palestinian Authority.
"We will gather ourselves into the main settlement blocs and preserve united Jerusalem.. Ma’ale Adumim, Gush Etzion and Ariel will be part of the state of Israel," said Olmert, with no recognition of the diplomatic faux pas he was making in announcing such blatant violations of the ‘Roadmap to Peace’. Ma’ale Adumim, Gush Etzion and Ariel are major Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank — which encroach up to 20 kilometers into Palestinian areas. His announcement of the planned takeover of Palestinian land came as no surprise to Palestinians living in the West Bank, for they are already well-aware of what has become a de facto policy of encroachment into Palestinian territory with the construction of the Israeli annexation Wall deep within Palestinian territory.
Wednesday’s statement comes two days after Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, said the Israeli government was considering unilaterally imposing the borders of a Palestinian state.
"If we won’t be able to reach agreed-upon borders, we will operate in a different way, which it is not appropriate to detail now … we don’t need to wait for someone else to impose our fate," he said. "In the coming years, and I’m talking about a few years, the final borders of the state of Israel will be set down, and the future of most of the settlements in [the West Bank] and the Jordan Valley will be decided in these two years."
The unilateral imposition of borders upon Palestinian land would violate all past agreements, and is also in direct contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention, of which Israel is a signatory. The suggested border would annex all of the Jordan Valley as part of Israel, and leave a Palestinian ‘state’ completely surrounded by Israel, with no foreign borders with other states. Palestinians would be left with 13% of their original land, and no control over their borders.
According to Israeli daily Ha’aretz, Olmert toured the area around Gush Etzion settlement Wednesday afternoon, and his decisions about where the Wall should be built were based on that tour. Local Palestinian residents, as in all cases regarding the placement of the Wall on their lands, were provided no forum to present their ownership documents or other proof that the Wall is disenfranchising them of their lands, in many cases including the destruction of their homes.
According to Ha’aretz, "Following the tour, Olmert decided to move the fence inside the Green Line at one of these points in order to avoid harming the quality of life of Palestinian residents in the nearby village of Batir. The Israel Defense Forces supported the decision, which will place the fence along the route of a pre-1967 army patrol road. The fence planners originally had wanted to include the archaeological site of ancient Batir inside the fence, since it was the last stronghold of Simon Bar Kochba, who led the second-century Jewish revolt against Rome. However, doing so would mean building the fence at the top of the hill, which would cut Batir residents off from their agricultural lands."
"On the second issue", the article continued, "whether to include the Palestinian village of Jabeh on the Israeli side of the fence – Olmert postponed a decision, saying he needed to study the issue further. If Jabeh were left outside the fence, Israel would have to move the Em ek Ha’ela Road connecting Gush Etzion to the center of the country, as the road abuts the village. However, because of the difficult topography of the area, moving the road would be difficult."
In the discussion about where the Wall should be built, however, no attempt to include affected Palestinians was made. As in the announcement that Israel would unilaterally enclose the West Bank, annexing nearly half the land, those most affected were not included in the decision-making process.
The International Court of Justice has ruled that the construction of the Wall, as well as the Israeli occupation itself, are illegal according to International Law. The Israeli government has chosen to ignore the decision, instead going ahead with settlement expansion in the Palestinian West Bank. The settler population increased by 12,000 in 2005 (despite the withdrawal of 9,000 settlers from the Gaza Strip). There are currently a total of 250,000 Israeli settlers living on Palestinian land in the West Bank.