Daoud Kuttab
The Jordan Times (Opinion)
July 15, 2010 - 12:00am

Over dinner in Bethlehem recently, I mentioned to my brother-in-law how Israel has strategically succeeded in cutting off Gaza Strip from the West Bank. While agreeing with me, he told me what a senior Israeli officer told him shortly after the beginning of the Oslo process. He said that Palestinians shouldn’t celebrate too much the withdrawal of Israel from Bethlehem, for before too long, Palestinians in Bethlehem will need to have a visa to enter Jerusalem.

I thought of this a few hours later; driving to my apartment in East Jerusalem, using the Rachel’s Tomb checkpoint, I noticed that the large metal gate that is part of it was partially closed. A few cars were ahead of me and so I waited to see what the problem was. For some time they did not move. When the person in the first car finally inquired, he was told that the checkpoint was closed. No explanation was given. The only thing left was to go back to Bethlehem. Somehow not even the visa we had, namely o?r Jerusalem ID cards, would work that night.

Driving back from the checkpoint, I listened to the BBC that was broadcasting a sound clip of US President Barack Obama’s. Obama, who was hosting the Israeli leader, claimed in front of clicking cameras that the easing of the Gaza blockade was the result of the peace process.

Nonsense, I said to myself. The easing of the blockade had been a demand for years of the moderate Ramallah-based leadership, to no avail. Only when the Turkey-led ship flotilla challenged the blockade and embarrassed the Israelis who were blocking jam and coriander (among other things) did the blockade ease on food items, but not on any other stuff needed to conduct a normal life.

The current peace process, as detailed in the roadmap, includes various Israeli and Palestinian obligations. The Israelis were asked to return things to the pre-October 2000 statute (removing all checkpoints since then, allowing the return of Palestinian police on the King Hussein Bridge) and to suspend all settlement activities, including those claimed for natural growth.

The obligations on the Palestinian side were focused on security and democratic processes. The security situation has greatly improved but the democratisation that was asked of Palestinians has been a source of trouble. For one, pro-Hamas reform and change members won parliamentary seats. Among the winners were four Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. By running in the elections, they broke no Israeli law, but by winning a free and fair elections that was supervised by respected international observer? such as former US president Jimmy Carter, they seem to have broken an unwritten law. This mysterious, undeclared law seems to say that by winning the Jerusalem seats, these Islamists are doomed for life.

For a while after the elections they were left alone. One, Khaled Abu Arafeh, was even made minister for Jerusalem affairs by the Palestinian Authority. But the moment an infiltrating Israeli soldier was captured in Gaza, these legislators and others in the West Bank were rounded up and put in jail. Now after being released, they are about to loose their right to reside in Jerusalem.

The four legislators, including a former PA Cabinet minister, have begun since last week a protest at the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) in Jerusalem. The ICRC is entrusted to uphold the Geneva Conventions, the fourth of which states clearly and unambiguously that occupying powers are not allowed to deport subjects under their occupation.

The International Court of Justice at The Hague ruled, six years ago this week, that all the territories, including East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the June 1967 war are occupied territories to which the Geneva Convention applies.

Since the beginning of the proximity talks eight weeks ago, Israel’s behaviour has shown that the country is not interested in peace. Six Palestinians were killed, including a 16 year old, 121 were injured, settlement activities, especially in Jerusalem, have continued uninterrupted and plans are being made for 2,700 more West Bank units. House demolitions, evictions, travel restrictions and incitement against the peace process by Cabinet ministers (including the foreign minister) have continued unabated.

Israel has said, in various binding agreements with the PLO, that the status of East Jerusalem, and obviously its residents, is to be resolved in negotiations. The status of Jerusalem is perhaps one of the few remaining unresolved issues in the current political stalemate.

Obama feels that the peace process fully embraced by the Palestinian Authority does produce results. Many Jerusalemites are then asking whether Israel’s strongest ally, the US, can at least guarantee that Palestinians residing in Jerusalem can continue to live in the holy city and have regular access to their families in friends in the surrounding Palestinian cities and communities.


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