My synagogue group stood on a hill near the Mount Scopus Campus of the Hebrew University looking east towards the Dead Sea. To the far right, about 7 km away, stood the Jewish settlement-city of Ma’ale Adumim (population, 40,000 Jews). To the north and adjacent to it was the last open area in the circular ring around Jerusalem called E-1 (about 12 square km – 4.6 square miles) that falls between Jerusalem and Jericho.
Beneath us down the hill and towards the two East Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhoods of Isawiyya and A-Tur is another open area that Jewish settler organizations are working to declare “Mount Scopus Slopes National Park.”
Whenever the Israeli government has designated an area as a National Park, there is usually some archeological, historical or nature significance to it. This area, however, has no significance in any of these ways.
Jerusalem expert Daniel Seidemann explained that the primary goal in designating this area a national park is
“…to link between the inner encirclement of the Old City and its visual basin, as designated by the governmental Old City Basin Project, and the outer encirclement in Greater Jerusalem, as disclosed by the E-1 plan between Ma’ale Adumim and East Jerusalem. The new national park will be a bridge, creating [and] forging a geographical link between the Old City basin and E-1.”
Daniel Seidemann is the founder of “Terrestrial Jerusalem,” an Israeli non-governmental organization that works to identify and track the developments in Jerusalem that could impact either the political process or permanent status options, destabilize the city or spark violence, or create humanitarian crises. His organization says that
“Israel has already expropriated more than 35% of the privately owned land of East Jerusalem for the purpose of building settlement neighborhoods (in excess of 50,000 residential units for Israelis). Now, additional lands owned by the residents of Issawiya and A Tur will be, to all intents, expropriated by Israel. While declaring the site a national park does not nullify the owners’ property rights, it inevitably deprives them of the ability to exercise these rights in any meaningful way by denying them the ability to develop or sell their land. The declaration of the park will, in effect empty ownership of virtually all practical significance.”
The larger goal of the settlement groups and the Israeli right-wing is to effectively surround the city of Jerusalem with Jewish settlements and national parks and cut off direct access to the east that would allow contiguity for a future state of Palestine, thus making the achievement of two-states for two-peoples impossible.
The following short video (7 minutes) features Israeli experts in Jerusalem who show exactly how this will occur http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tuGALhavoc.
Polls indicate that the majority of Israelis accept that the city of Jerusalem will have to be shared as the capital for both Israel and Palestine. The Palestinians have stated consistently that there can be no agreement without their capital in Jerusalem. The challenge, of course, will be security, which is what negotiations are for.
Given that the sharing of Jerusalem is among the most important and central issues on the negotiating table, anything that deliberately changes Jerusalem’s status-quo until an agreement can be achieved is ill-advised. Those Israelis, aided and abetted by the settler movement and Israel’s right wing, that insist that Jerusalem cannot and should not be shared are doing everything possible to create facts on the ground that will condemn negotiations to failure and assure continuing violence and war.
See a map of the area: http://www.t-j.org.il/Portals/26/featured_maps_2011/TJ_ScopusPark_B.jpg