Recently, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was reported to have suggested that the question of Jerusalem would be “left to last” in negotiations with the Palestinians. This was apparently on account of the issue being “too sensitive and complex,” as well as fears that talks on Jerusalem would cause the departure of religious right-wingers from Olmert’s ruling coalition.
Domestic political considerations will certainly have played a part in the prime minister’s thinking, but there is another possible motivation for leaving this “final status issue” for further down the road. In recent weeks, and indeed, going back to the December announcement of the expansion of West Bank settlement Har Homa, the Israeli government’s approach to Jerusalem has been at best contradictory, and at worst, deeply cynical. Read more
An oft-repeated pattern was made visible once again this week, as acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke of his plans for Israel’s future borders in interviews with the Israeli press. Settlements that began as outposts, colonies that started life as military bases, are now to be annexed by the Separation Barrier as irreversible ‘realities’.
It has been a central tenet of the Zionist movement throughout its history; establish ‘facts on the ground’ through power disparity, facts which then form the new minimum position or status quo for any potential negotiations. This principle was evident when Palestinian refugees did not return after their expulsion in 1948, when settlement construction began after the 1967 war in the newly conquered territory, and with the ongoing erection of the Separation Barrier. Read more