On January 22 2017, the Israeli Security Cabinet agreed to postpone a discussion and government vote on the long anticipated “annexation bill.” The proposed legislation, if passed, would formally extend Israeli sovereignty over Ma’ale Adumim, a colony located seven kilometers east of Jerusalem and stretching to the Jordan Valley. Its backers see it as a step towards the annexation of 60% of the occupied West Bank, designated as Area C.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted on delaying the bill, until he could personally pitch the plan to U.S. President, Donald Trump. To placate more eager Israeli ministers, Netanyahu lifted restrictions on settlement construction in occupied Jerusalem.
Ma’ale Adumim is a “high priority” settlement for the Israeli government. It is the third largest in the West Bank in terms of population (roughly 40,000) and the largest in area. The settlement, which attracts residents through affordable housing and a high “quality-of-life,” functions as part of the “eastern gate” fortifying Israel’s claimed capital, Jerusalem.
Ma’ale Adumim lies on occupied territory in contravention of international law. It was established as part of a scheme to envelope occupied East Jerusalem and hinder Palestinian growth in their own hinterland. The colony, by virtue of its size and location, also swallows up East Jerusalem’s development reserves and bisects the West Bank (north/south), thereby undermining the likelihood of a viable and contiguous Palestinian state.
Without doubt, the annexation of Ma’ale Adumim is a “dangerous escalation” that could potentially determine the political future in the region. For many, Netanyahu and the Israeli far-right are primarily to blame for the diminished prospects for peace. The history of Ma’ale Adumim illustrates, however, that when it comes to the Palestinians and the oPt, there is little separating the Zionist “left” from the “right.” Ma’ale Adumim was granted settlement status (1977) and municipal status (1991) by Likud-led (“right-wing”) governments. But, Yitzhak Rabin and his “left-wing” Labor government (1974-1977) enabled its establishment and expansion.
After Israel conquered the oPt in June 1967, the Labor-led government immediately began a process of strengthening Israel’s control over East Jerusalem and strategic locations in the West Bank through a network of colonies and accompanying infrastructure. In November 1974, Rabin’s Labor government set up an industrial zone east of Jerusalem on the road to Jericho. By March 1975, Israeli settlers from Gush Emunim had erected an outpost in the area. While this was done without government consent, it fit into plans to build a security belt of satellite settlements around occupied Jerusalem.
The military government began converting the area around the industrial zone into a civilian colony in May 1975, by expropriating additional swaths of land from surrounding Palestinian villages, expelling Bedouin tribes, and settling an additional sixty Israelis. By autumn 1975, Ma’ale Adumim had been born.
The expansion of Ma’ale Adumim into a city-colony was supported by all Israeli governments, across the political spectrum, since 1975. In fact, it was Rabin who, during his second term in office in 1995, approved expansion plans for the city to pre-empt the outcome of peace negotiations with the Palestinians, which were underway at the time.
“Leftist” Zionist parties in the Knesset are not a political force for positive change. Rather, they share responsibility, along with the right-wing, for sustaining the process of creeping annexation/apartheid that promises to leave Palestinians in the oPt with nothing but bantustans.