The problem is that Benjamin Netanyahu and Mayor Ehud Olmert are not limiting themselves to annexing areas west of Jerusalem. They thought they could apply the municipality's planning powers to areas east of the city that today are considered an integral part of the West Bank. There is a solid strategy behind this trick. The plan almost certainly is intended to create territorial continuity between Jerusalem and the Jewish settlements that today are in the heart of Palestinian territory. In view of the scheme's transparency, the government has no right to complain about the harsh criticism being voiced in the US or about the PA's complaints. As far as the Americans and Palestinians are concerned, the government's decision on Sunday contradicts the terms of the Oslo agreement and raises fears that Israel intends to sabotage the accord altogether. The government in effect has helped Netanyahu to lay a landmine on the road towards achieving regional peace.
New York Times
The loudest initial protest on Sunday came not from Palestinians or the US, but from residents of the Israeli towns to be annexed. Some of the residents are people who moved out of Jerusalem to escape the spread of its rigorously Orthodox neighbourhoods, dead set against coming under Jerusalem's control. The US has been negotiating with Israel for months on a further Israeli withdrawal in the West Bank that would enable the long-stalled talks with Palestinians to enter a final phase.
The decision has created a new "umbrella municipality" to include the Israeli settlements nearest to Jerusalem. The US State Department's calling this step an "extreme provocation" is itself provocative, in that it exaggerates the diplomatic significance. The new label may make Olmert's realm sound more grandiose, but it is unlikely to influence decision-making in this sensitive area. The long-approved and equally non-existent ring road planned to link the city's eastern neighbourhoods is not advanced a wit by Olmert's new umbrella. Such a road would benefit Arab and Jewish residents equally.Reuse content