NY Times Tars Israeli Development near Jerusalem
The Dec. 1 New York Times article ("Housing Move in Israel Seen as Setback for a Two-State Plan") by Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren about Israeli plans to develop new housing units east of Jerusalem is a highly inflammatory anti-Israel piece that doesn't stand up to rigorous fact-checking. Its main charge, quite erroneous, is that the project would doom creation of a contiguous Palestinian state on the West Bank
Here's Rudoren's lead paragraph: "Israel is moving forward with development of Jewish settlements in a contentious area east of Jerusalem, defying the United States by advancing a project that has long been condemned by Washington as effectively dooming any prospect of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
Fleshing out her indictment of Israel, Rudoren adds that "if such a project were to go beyond blueprints, it could prevent the creation of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state."
The area in question, known as E-1, would, she writes, link Jerusalem with the Israeli West Bank city of Maale Adumim to the east of the capital. In the process, Rudoren contends, it would end up cutting the West Bank in two by making it impossible for Palestinian road traffic to proceed from Ramallah in the north to Bethlehem in the south. Territorial contiguity for a Palestinian state would be out the window. The West Bank would be split in two.
Western media and governments, including Washington, have for many years endorsed the Palestinian view. But that doesn't necessarily mean that it has a factual basis.
What are the facts?
For starters, Maale Adumim, four miles east of Jerusalem, is a prime example of a close-in, large Jewish community in the West Bank that would, under any conceivable peace plan, remain under Israeli sovereignty. Development of the E-1 connector has been supported by every Israeli prime minister since Yitzhak Rabin, not just by Benjamin Netanyahu, the Times' favorite Israel bête noire.
Yet, would such a land connection between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim sever a potential Palestinian state on the West Bank in two non-contiguous pieces? The answer is no. It would not.
Because along with development plans for E-1, Israel has plans for a bypass road to take Palestinian traffic from the southern part of the West Bank, thence east of Maale Adumim and thence northward to connect with cities in the northern West Bank. Thus, there would be contiguity from Jenin, Nablus, and Ramallah in the north to Bethlehem and Hebron in the south, as has been documented in a position paper of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), a think-tank headed by Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations.
In my book, Dore Gold trumps Jodi Rurdoren when it comes to reporting realities on the ground, especially with regard to Jerusalem and environs.
The JCPA also points out that the bypass road would reduce north-south driving time because there would be no Israeli roadblocks to delay Palestinian motorists. Moreover, under the Oslo agreements, Israel retains zoning and planning rights for E-1.
Beyond all that, it turns out that it's Israel -- not the Palestinians -- that could be strategically weakened in the fight over E-1 because any eventual Palestinian takeover of this area could deprive the Israeli military of use of the Jerusalem highway to Jericho to ferry troops and materiel to the Jordanian border in case of an attack from the east.
In any case, contrary to Rudoren's assertions, Israeli housing development in E-1 would not doom "the creation of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state" in the West Bank. Unfortunately, truth is the first victim of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, thanks to such biased media reporting.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers