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New ‘security’-focused plan advances Israel’s colonisation of East Jerusalem

The Israeli government’s approval of an $86 million plan for tightening its grip over occupied East Jerusalem is the latest development in a process of colonisation that continues to proceed with impunity.

According to an article in Haaretz, the five-year investment plan will fund “a number of actions with the declared purpose of thwarting any possibility that the city would be divided as part of a future accord”. The newspaper described it as “similar in nature to Economy Minister Naftali Bennett’s proposal to annex Area C of the West Bank”.

The origins of the report approved by Netanyahu’s cabinet Sunday are in a ministerial discussion last year on “the increase in nationalistically motivated rock-throwing and other violent incidents” in East Jerusalem. This meeting led to a fact-finding committee headed by cabinet secretary Avichai Mendelblit, and including representatives of the Prime Minister’s Office, Housing Ministry, the Shin Bet, Jerusalem District police, and the city municipality, among others.

The committee’s recommendations included assigning the five-year investment plan to the responsibility of Naftali Bennett, in his capacity as Minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs, as well as to his ministry’s director-general Dvir Kahana. This is a man who used to visit Palestinian communities and threaten them with expulsion.

The overriding emphasis of the plan is on ‘security’, as illustrated by the motivation for the report and the nature of its key recommendations. The cabinet-backed report speaks of “uncompromising enforcement and punishment against those who seek to undermine Israeli control in [East Jerusalem]”, with the government expected to seek “amendments to the penal code that would mandate stiffer penalties for the offense of throwing rocks at police officers, civilians or vehicles”.

Other recommendations include “more police officers” and “additional security cameras”, as well an upgrade of “the protection at compounds of Jewish settlers”. This increase in “police and surveillance presence in East Jerusalem” comes as the cabinet pointed to “390 incidents of stone-throwing” in the annexed areas March-April 2014 – so-called “offences with nationalist characteristics“. Thus a full third of the initiative’s budget is designated for “increasing personal security” in East Jerusalem – what, as one analyst put it, is clearly a reference to the security of “the settlers living in the heart of Palestinian neighbourhoods”.

The plan also promises a survey of public infrastructure in East Jerusalem to be followed by an upgrade as required, as well as funding for schools, employment opportunities, and welfare services. Yet even these elements cannot be untangled from the bigger picture; as Bennett put it, “young people are easily influenced and are more inclined to take part in violent, nationalist or other activities”.

Moreover, the proposed investment in infrastructure in Palestinian areas of East Jerusalem is a drop in the ocean. As NGO Ir Amin pointed out, “NIS 2 billion is required to bring east Jerusalem’s infrastructure into fair condition”, yet “the government decided to spend only one-tenth of that within the next five years”.

The new plan for East Jerusalem then, is a typically colonial initiative that seeks to crush resistance to occupation with one hand, while offering the crumbs of economic ‘incentives’ with the other. It is part and parcel of decades of Judaisation and colonial settlement exhaustively documented by Palestinians, Israeli NGOs, and international observers. Indeed, EU monitors more or less annually condemn Israeli policies such as home demolitions and the revocation of residency permits. In 2012, the emphasis was on the use of sanctions with regards to East Jerusalem settlement activity.

And yet, Israel proceeds with impunity. Illegal, unilateral annexation, settlements, the Apartheid Wall, discriminatory housing policies – the new plan is certainly consistent with the government and municipality’s track record. Will the international community, and in particular the EU, do anything about it? If they do not, they shouldn’t be surprised to see a Netanyahu government proceed with further measures aimed at cementing Israel’s apartheid, de facto one state solution.

Published first on Middle East Monitor

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