Friday, March 10, 2006

Coming Jerusalem War?

In the midst of the election campaign, acting Israeli Prime Minister Olmert has spelled out his plans for the future.

They are - let's be clear about that - plans not only for a continuation but for a serious aggrevation of the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

In the longer term, there is no doubt that they will create grave new dangers for the state of Israel.

He doesn't want to negotiate with the Palestinians any longer. His Foreign Minister has said that Abu Mazen is "no longer relevant". Not that there was a great eagerness to negiotiate with him before...

Insteas there will be a unilateral demarcation of a new border and a forced separation of Israel from Palestine, although with a continued Israeli military presence thoughout the West Bank.

That some settlements will be evacuated could of course be described as good. What will happen with Hebron and the very militant settlements there will be most interesting to see.

But as some form of compensation Olmert plans to get total control of all of East Jerusalem and the area East of it by building up the so-called E1 area. This is something Washington has previously stopped Israel from doing, and it will be interesting to see which stand they will take now.

For those interested in the situation in more detail the leaked report from the European Union Heads of Mission in Jerusalem is well worth reading. It's linked to above.

E1 is the end of any possibility of building a functioning Palestinian state. It ends the road map and it ends the two state possibility of peace.

The reason is that it cuts the West Bank into two areas virtually out of communication with each other. And it cuts the Palestinians of East Jerusalem off from contacts with the West Bank. It's truly a decisive strategic shift in the entire situation.

A reasonable peace between Israel and Palestine would include some transfers of territory and border adjustments. That has been accepted by the Palestinian side. But E1 is the end of that consensus. It means a perpetuation of the conflict - in all probability an aggrevation of it.

There is no doubt that this will be publicly opposed by the European Union. And there is no question that it violates international law and resolutions by the UN Security Council. It also goes against US policy as it has been expressed until now.

Certainly a serious step.

Certainly not a step towards peace. Certainly a step towards conflict.

Perhaps even war. Of some sort.