'If they build here, there will never be peace with Israel'

As Israeli plans to build settlements on the disputed E1 area continue, Matthew Kalman meets the Bedouin people in Ma'ale Adumim who face eviction from the land

From the roof of City Hall in Ma'ale Adumim, municipality spokesman Hezki Zisman has a glorious view in all directions that doubles as a basic geography primer on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

From a distance, the undulating hills, Bedouin encampments and limestone villages rising to the tower-topped mountains of Jerusalem radiate a natural beauty that seems to provide a storybook setting for peace. On closer inspection, the landscape is dotted with military checkpoints and bisected by a concrete security barrier to halt the passage of would-be suicide bombers into Israeli-controlled territory.

As both sides search for the elusive formula that might defuse the conflict that divides the residents of neighbouring hills, recent plans announced by Israel have raised fears that the delicate political tapestry of this complex landscape will be permanently altered.

To the west, the outskirts of East Jerusalem cascade over the Mount of Olives into the deep valley that divides this large West Bank settlement of 40,000 residents from the nearby Israeli capital. To the south lies Abu Dis, a Palestinian-controlled village and home of Al-Quds University, where Yasser Arafat constructed a parliament building for the future state of Palestine only to see it sealed off from neighbouring Jerusalem by the 30-foot high Israeli security wall. To the east, the spectacular folds of the Judean desert plunge 700 metres towards Jericho and the Dead Sea before the horizon soars again up to Amman and the Mountains of Moab.

But Mr Zisman's focus today is to the north, across the main highway leading from Jerusalem to Jericho, where the mayor of Ma'ale Adumim unveiled a plaque in September 2009 renaming the five-square-mile plot of largely barren hillsides as the settlement's newest neighbourhood, Mevasseret Adumim.

"There is no more land, no other area for Ma'ale Adumim to expand in any direction," Mr Zisman says. "It's important because we want to come close to Jerusalem. It's a strategic place for the country. It sits on the main road."

The area, known as E1, has remained almost deserted despite the mayor's plaque. A single winding road dotted with roundabouts leads to the only permanent building, a heavily fortified regional police HQ opened in 2008. There are street lights, electricity cables and water mains, but no houses. Plans to build 3,900 homes have been frozen by international pressure since 2004. A bridge linking the area to the mother settlement across the highway constructed a decade ago has been blocked by boulders.

The Palestinians consider E1 a vital land bridge linking Ramallah and Nablus in the northern West Bank to Bethlehem and Hebron in the south. Its border would allow the future Palestinian state one of its few points of strategic contact with East Jerusalem.

"If implemented, these plans would alter the situation on the ground on a scale that makes the two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, increasingly difficult to achieve," says Foreign Secretary William Hague.

But last week, Israel defied international objections and revived the E1 development plan in response to the PLO's successful upgrade of its mission at the United Nations to the position of a non-member state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday: "Everybody understands that these suburbs are going to remain part of Israel as a final settlement of peace. The same applies to the narrow corridor that connects Ma'ale Adumim to Jerusalem. This was part of all the plans."

He added: "You'll have a Palestinian state between Gaza and Judea-Samaria, the West Bank, and they are divided by 60 kilometres. That doesn't preclude a Palestinian state, but the fact that Ma'ale Adumim will be connected to Jerusalem in a corridor that is two, three kilometres long, that somehow prevents a Palestinian state. That's not true. It's simply false."

But Abdullah Arare, a Bedouin shepherd tending his flock of 450 goats with his daughter on a hill in E1 overlooking the police station, is certain the Israeli prime minister is wrong.

"This is Palestinian land. If they build here, there will be no peace," says Mr Arare. "How can we build a state without land? This is the link between the cities in the north and the south."

A few miles to the west, close by the security wall that marks the border with Jerusalem, Ibrahim Saidi, his four wives, 30 children and numerous grandchildren, graze their 1,000 sheep and goats and nine camels on the other side of E1. "We have been here for 50 years," says Mr Saidi. "If they build here, we will be unable to graze our flocks and I will have to double the amount of feed I buy for the animals. I can't afford it. I'll have to sell the flocks and stop being a shepherd."

In the neighbouring patch of land just across the wall in occupied East Jerusalem, there is a similar fear of upheaval.

Jadua Al-Kurshan, 55, lives in a valley under the north Jerusalem neighbourhood of French Hill, known in Arabic as Kurshan and in Hebrew as Nahal Og. The community of 17 families, about 90 people, is the last remaining Bedouin encampment within the municipal boundary of Jerusalem. On 1 November, the local planning committee published Plan 13900 advocating the removal of Mr Al-Kurshan's community so the valley can be used as an industrial waste landfill before being landscaped into a new public park.

It is not the first time the Jerusalem authorities have tried to move the Bedouin. The area was an empty space miles from the city when they first moved there in the 1970s. Now the new Israeli suburbs built across the pre-1967 border are creeping towards them.

"Four years ago the municipality gave us an eviction order. We went to court and won. They were told they couldn't remove the people because they didn't have enough evidence to enforce the order," Mr Al-Kurshan says.

The Jerusalem Municipality says Plan 13900 is the result of years of research into possible locations for a badly needed dump that will afterwards be beautified for the benefit of all residents. "There are illegal buildings on the site that have been the subject of legal proceedings," says a spokesman. "The court decided that the moment the municipal building plan was approved the demolition orders would be enforceable."

Sari Kronish, an architect at Bimkom, a group that raises human rights issues in planning procedures in Jerusalem, says the environmental arguments in favour of a landfill and park disguise a policy in which parks are being used to close off development opportunities for Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

"I'm concerned at the complete disregard for the people who live there at the moment and the fact that the plan does not include any alternative solution for the people who have livelihoods in this area," says Ms Kronish.

A Bimkom report on plans for national parks in Jerusalem suggests the motivation is as much political as environmental. "Their intention is to curb the development of the Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem," says Ms Kronish.

In the Kurshan/Nahal Og valley, the implications of that policy flow beyond the municipal boundary. The Israeli land barrier that Palestinians fear will destroy the geographical integrity of their future state and weaken its physical connection to Jerusalem begins in Kurshan, which connects directly to E1 and from there to the settlement of Ma'ale Adumim.

Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
News
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
News
newsChester Zoo have revealed their newest members
Sport
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
News
The video, titled 'A Message to America', was released a day after Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that has overrun large parts of Iraq, threatened to attack Americans 'in any place'. U.S. officials said they were working to determine the video's authenticity
i100
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
tvSpielberg involved in bringing his 2002 film to the small screen
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Insight Manager

£40000 - £43000 Per Annum plus company bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - IT

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Computer Futures has been est...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape