By Stephen Lendman
On February 1, 2009, the International Solidarity Movement reported that Israel continues its E 1 area homes and infrastructure work that includes linking its Ma’ale Adummim settlement with East Jerusalem and other settlements around it. It said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, while in office, promised to expand E 1 development – the land northeast of Jerusalem, west of Ma’ale Adummim comprising about 12 square kilometers, all of it illegally annexed.
On November 15, 2009, the International Middle East Media Center reported that construction began in Ras al-Amud, Pisgat Ze’ev and elsewhere in East Jerusalem as part of Israel’s scheduled 3,000 unit project.
On November 18, Al Jazeera headlined, "Israel moves to expand settlement," saying approval was given to construct 900 housing units in East Jerusalem’s Gilo settlement.
Overall, Israel’s E 1 Plan involves building about 15,000 new homes, a large industrial zone, hotels, other recreational facilities, a police station, garbage dump and more to be shared by Occupied Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adummim settlers.
Israel’s 121 West Bank/East Jerusalem official settlements, another 100 so-called "unauthorized outposts," and 12 Israeli (de facto settlement) neighborhoods annexed to Jerusalem’s municipal area are illegal under international law, including Fourth Geneva’s Article 49 stating:
"Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupied Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of the motive."
In addition, UN Resolutions 446, 452, 465 and others condemned Israel’s settlement building by declaring they have "no legal validity" to exist. Yet they do and keep expanding in defiance of the law.
B’Tselem is the Israeli Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. Bimkom, Planners for Planning Rights, helps communities throughout Israel and the West Bank "in matters concerning home demolitions, infrastructure and public services, local and neighborhood development plans, as well as the separation barrier….to strengthen democracy and human rights in the field of planning."
In December 2009, they jointly produced a report titled, "The establishment and expansion plans of the Ma’ale Adummim settlement: Spatial and human rights implications."
With 34,000 residents occupying 10,000 housing units, Ma’ale Adummim is Israel’s largest settlement in land area and third largest in population (after Modi’in Illit and Beitar Illit). Expanding it will separate East Jerusalem Palestinians from other West Bank cities and villages, reduce any chance for a viable Palestinian state, and further confine them to isolated cantons on the Territory’s least valued land, giving Israel unlimited control of the rest.
In 1999, B’Tselem published "On the Way to Annexation" explaining how Ma’ale Adummim’s earlier development violated international law by expropriating Palestinian land and expelling Jahalin tribe Bedouins. After the Separation Wall construction began, the planned route leaves Ma’ale Adummin and smaller adjacent settlements on the Israeli side, creating a partition between the southern and northern West Bank sections. Additional E 1 development since then seized more land illegally, demolished Palestinian homes, and expelled their residents to more constricted areas.
The present report has two main objectives:
— "to describe the spatial changes that have taken place" since the first publication and how they affect Palestinian human rights; and
— "to examine these changes in light of the history of Ma’ale Adummim and the intentions that lead to its establishment."
Recently revealed Israeli documents show that in 1974 the first Rabin government secretly decided to annex Ma’ale Adummim to Jerusalem with no official announcement. Doing so, of course, is illegal. In March 1975, 3,000 hectares of village lands were seized. Several years earlier, the IDF commander declared most of these lands a closed military zone. In 1977, another 194 hectares were taken for future use plus 200 expropriated for roads and infrastructure. In total, it comprises 73% of Ma’ale Adummim’s jurisdiction area. The rest is Israeli state property. In 1991, the settlement attained city status, the first one to do so.
Its expropriation procedure was unique. Until 1979, settlements were established on land requisitioned by military order claiming these communities would serve an important security function. Three times, Israel’s High Court concurred until it held (in 1979) that the Elon Moreh order was illegal because it failed to meet that definition.
Thereafter, declarations arbitrarily classified over 90,000 West Bank hectares as state land, most of it later included within the jurisdictional boundaries of local and regional settlement councils. The major Ma’ale Adummim expropriations occurred in 1975 and 1977 for military needs, before the Elon Moreh ruling.
"The difference between the two procedures relates to their validity over time." Land requisition is temporary, but may be repeatedly extended. It doesn’t change ownership, just the temporary right to use it. Payment is also offered, so, in fact, the landowner is forced to "lease" the land to the state.
In contrast, expropriation is permanent, switching ownership from Palestinians to the state against the owner’s will, even though payment is offered that may be refused and often is to make a political statement.
Israel expropriated land for Ma’ale Adummim to make it an integral part of Jerusalem. Shortly after the 1967 war, the government annexed West Bank land to expand the city’s borders for demographic reasons, "a mere" 7,000 hectares to avoid an adverse international reaction. The order included large areas to the east and south to ensure Israeli control of a strategic location, controlling passage between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank to Jerusalem, Jordan and Jericho.
The development planned residential neighborhoods and an industrial zone with more land expropriated than needed for future use and to make Ma’ale Adummim a Jerusalem suburb.
In 1977, the Likud government recognized two former "work camps" as civilian communities, Ma’ale Adummim and Ofra. The latter set a precedent as an "unauthorized outpost." As the first northern West Bank settlement, it broke "the barrier that blocked settlement attempts in the heart of the Palestinian population" and established events on the ground for dozens more to follow – illegal settlements and outposts "in opposition to the stated official position of the government," only on paper to be ignored.
Prior to the Elon Moreh ruling, the Israeli High Court held that expropriating Occupied Territory private property for a security or civilian settlement was prohibited under international law (the Hague Convention), while temporary requisitioning was legal.
International law states that an occupying power must respect existing local legislation. Applicable Jordanian law allowed private property expropriation if compensation was paid, provided it was for a "public purpose," such as roads and public buildings. The statute remains in effect.
However, Israeli settlement development constitutes a non-public purpose land grab. In a May 1980 position to the Israeli Cabinet, attorney general and later Supreme Court Justice Yitzhak Zamir said:
"It is not permissible to act under Jordanian Law to expropriate land in Judea and Samaria."
Pli’a Albeck, head of the State Attorney’s Office civilian division, held a similar position. Eyal Zamir, former Judea and Samaria deputy legal advisor, summarized Israel’s official policy that:
"Expropriation of land for public purposes is not prohibited. Three pre-conditions (must) exist: first, the acquisition is made in accordance with the local law; second, the landlord is fully compensated; and third, the acquisition is for a public purpose….It should be emphasized that Israel is not expropriating land to establish settlements in the area."
Nonetheless, Ma’ale Adummim was created in violation of this policy, based on the 1974 inter-ministerial team’s recommendations, headed by the then-attorney general and later Supreme Court president, Meir Shamgar, who said:
"Regarding expropriation in Judia and Samaria, it should be mentioned that international law generally denies the military government the authority to expropriate land in occupied territories; however, there is evidence supporting the position that it is permissible to expropriate land for the needs of the local population upon payment of compensation." Having previously done it for roads and public buildings, "it may also be permissible to (do so) for an industrial zone….whose construction is approved under the local planning and building laws."
The justification was that factories would benefit Palestinians as well as Jews. Yet, settlement development was intended that under international and local law as well as High Court decisions at the time are illegal.
Settlement planners claimed the expropriated land was uncultivated, so Palestinians weren’t harmed. According to architect Tommy Leitersdorf, who prepared the first Ma’ale Adummim plan:
"The state inherited it from Jordan….These were state lands, state land proper. So, there was also a consensus (that) we didn’t take it from anybody."
Israel’s Civil Commission said:
"In those years (1975 – 77), there was no procedure for declaring state land, so, due to the doubt, land was expropriated even though the land concerned was unregistered and not cultivated."
Ignored was that local law stipulated that "uncultivated" land could be owned by individuals. In villages under Jordanian rule, many such areas were registered to Palestinians, not the state.
After their land was seized, dozens of Palestinians filed compensation claims with the Jordanian government that concluded that 78% of the expropriated land was privately owned.
Israel illegally designated the Ma’ale Adummim area arid, abandoned, and uncultivated even though it earlier was declared a closed military zone, off-limits to cultivation, and the Ministry of Construction and Housing said it’s:
"in the Mediterranean flora area (where) the wadis (valleys) are being cultivated….East of this area, on land that can still be cultivated in rainy years, cultivation is done in accord with the Masha (collective) ownership method….The more arid land is used for communal grazing…."
"Ma’ale Adummim was (thus) built in complete disregard" of international and local law. The initially ordered 3,500 hectares were increased to 4,800 to connect the area to Jerusalem’s municipal borders. It’s now the largest land area settlement.
Then in March 2009, a Change of Borders Commission recommended a further 1,150 hectare increase by integrating the Qedar settlement, all state lands lying between it and Ma’ale Adummim, and additional lands within the enlarged city limits. The Commission ignored objections and the fact that there’s no justification or need for further expansion except to seize more Palestinian land, sever the southern and northern West Bank sections, and exacerbate the forced separation between East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank toward eventually making the entire city Jewish.
In 2005, a new master plan was prepared that doesn’t comply with Jordanian planning law, applicable to the West Bank. Statutory documents are binding and open to the public to object. However, master plans are unpublished and unavailable for public viewing.
"….they define, in a general-outline manner, the zoning of the area to which they apply and dictate its development. (In addition), the public cannot object to them, so that the burden of hearing public objections and considering them is avoided. Hence, master plans often serve as a means to bypass the legal requirement (to) prevent any involvement of the public – Palestinians in particular…."
After a Civil Administration’s Higher Planning Council (HPC) hearing, its minutes showed plan’s main objective is to facilitate substantial population growth up to 103,000 residents. To accommodate it, a new road system will be built connected to Israel’s national network. Also, an airstrip, rail line, exhibition center and garbage facility besides everything in earlier plans.
Ignored completely is Palestinian-owned land, enclaves not part of Ma’ale Adummim’s statutory outline plans, although they’re surrounded on all sides by the settlement’s jurisdiction area. The idea is to include them incrementally while continuing a policy of home demolitions and forced expulsions.
The Separation Wall is another issue. In April 2006, the government amended its route 14 km east of the Green Line and 11 km from Jerusalem’s post-1967 border. It leaves most of Ma’ale Adummim’s jurisdiction area on the Israeli side, except for some desert lands east and south.
The route will create a 6,400 hectare enclave which, besides the settlements, includes the Palestinian a-Za’ayem village of 3,500 residents and 3,000 al-Ka’abaneh, a-Sawahrah and Jahalin tribe Bedouins. The result will trap thousands of Palestinians in the "seam zone" between the Wall and Green Line, making their lives a bureaucratic nightmare requiring permits to live in their own homes and villages besides free movement restrictions.
The communities of al-Eizariyah, Abu Dis, ‘Anata, and as-Sawahrah ash-Sharqiya are also trapped between the "Jerusalem envelope" western barrier and the eastern one in Ma’ale Adummim that impede their development west or east. In addition, disrupting the existing road system will hinder access to Ramallah in the north and Bethlehem in the south. After the forced separation from Jerusalem, they’re the only cities able to supply vital services, including healthcare and administration.
Harm to Palestinians
Ma’ale Adummim’s establishment and expansion violates Palestinian rights three ways:
— individual Palestinians whose lands were seized and then forcibly expelled from their residences;
— entire Palestinian communities unable to develop; and
— "infringement of the collective right of the Palestinian people to a viable state, with reasonable territorial contiguity."
Even under the Civil Administration’s narrow law interpretation that only land cultivated for an extended time, past and present, is private property, much of what was expropriated for Ma’ale Adummim is Palestinian owned, especially where residential neighborhoods were built.
Throughout the West Bank, settlement establishment and expansions have meant land seizures and Palestinian expulsions. The result has forced them into smaller more isolated areas, unable to expand for future needs.
Because of its location and expansion plans, Ma’ale Adummim impedes the Palestinians’ right to self-determination "within the framework of a viable state that enjoys reasonable territory contiguity."
Its location lies at the West Bank’s narrowest area, covering about one-half of its total width. In addition, the surrounding topography is hilly, especially in the north and south valleys. Thus, Ma’ale Adummim creates a "physical and functional partition" between the West Bank’s northern and southern sections, splitting it into two cantons.
Further development will exacerbate the problem by severing East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. Jewish neighborhoods will surround the city on all sides, an ongoing process further affected by the Separation Wall’s construction.
Summary and Conclusions
Israel contends that Ma’ale Adummim’s purpose is to serve Jerusalem even though the area has been illegally occupied since 1967, and international law prohibits an occupying power from exploiting the territory for itself.
After the 1967 war, the government considered annexing the Ma’ale Adummim area entirely, but feared a harsh international reaction. As a result, it’s done it incrementally by expanding Jerusalem’s municipal’s boundaries well beyond their limits.
"In recent years, Israeli governments have taken a number of measures to ensure that Ma’ale Adummim will be, for all practical purposes, a functional and spatial part of Jerusalem" to seize as much West Bank territory as possible, deny it to Palestinians, and prevent their having a viable sovereign state. More than other settlements, Ma’ale Adummim’s development is key to this strategic purpose that includes seizing all of East Jerusalem for exclusive Jewish use.
In late December, that’s precisely what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had in mind by announcing another 700 apartment expansion in three East Jerusalem’s settlements – Pisgat Zeev, Neve Ya’akov and Har Homa.
More Palestinian land will be seized. Homes will be demolished, their residents uprooted and displaced for the new project. Others will follow as part of a process that won’t stop until all East Jerusalem is Jewish with Palestinians entirely excluded, including from the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, Islam’s third holiest site. According to Israel’s US ambassador, Michael Oren, Obama will exert no pressure to stop it or on new settlement development to come.
– Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.