RAMALLAH, Occupied Palestine -- Two days before the
Quartet's planned February meeting in Washington and a few days after EU
foreign policy chief Javier Solana urged Israel to freeze settlements in the
occupied West Bank and to stop constructing the Separation Wall, Israeli Prime
Minister Ehud Olmert has approved the moving of the separation barrier at least
five kilometers eastward from the Green Line in the area of the Israeli
settlement of Modi'in Ilit, west of Ramallh, in order to take in the
settlements of Nili and Na'aleh, according to security sources and a brief
submitted by the state to the High Court of Justice.
Olmert approved the change in response to pressure from the
1,500 residents of the two settlements, both of which would have been left
outside the barrier, according to the route approved by the Israeli cabinet
last April. The new route will lengthen the fence by about 12 kilometers, which
will cost an estimated $30 million US.
The new route will create two Palestinian ghettos containing
about 20,000 people. The ghettos will contain the villages of Ni'leen, Budrus,
and Qibya. A Palestinian official on Wednesday condemned the plan saying,
"It is as an attempt by Israel to annex the land of the three villages to
impose realities on [the] ground before any future peace negotiations".
If the Israeli cabinet approves Olmert's decision, it will
be the first time in the constructions process that a part of the Separation
Wall has been moved eastward after receiving a Cabinet approval to be built
close to the Green Line. Hitherto, all such changes have moved the Wall
westward, toward the Green Line, the pre-1967 border that separates Israel and
the West Bank.
Nili and Na'aleh are both Israeli secular settlements. They
are located about five kilometers from the Green Line. Originally, they were
supposed to be surrounded by a "double fence" -- one along the Green
Line and one to their east -- that would have enclosed five Palestinian
villages West of Ramallah, with some 17,000 residents among them.
In June 2004, however, the Israeli High Court ordered a
section of the Wall near Jerusalem dismantled since it caused 'disproportionate
harm to local Palestinians,' and the Israeli defense establishment feared that
the court would do the same to the Nili-Na'aleh section.
It therefore proposed a new route that eliminated the
eastern fence and left Nili and Na'aleh outside the western Wall, and in April
2006, the Israeli cabinet approved this route. Israeli security sources
confirmed that Olmert approved the change of the Wall's route in principle last
November and asked the defense establishment to prepare a formal proposal for
the Israeli cabinet.
In addition to the Wall, a new road is also due to be paved
in the area to replace the road bearing number 446, which will connect the
Israeli settlements of Modi'in Ilit, Nili and Na'aleh with the settlement of
Ofarim. Palestinians will not be permitted access to this road, but two tunnels
will be built under it to allow Palestinian traffic to transverse it in an
attempt to separate the Palestinians from Israelis.
The result of the Israeli policy is that some 17,000 Palestinians
will be stuck in a ghetto surrounded by the Wall along the Green Line to the
west and the new road and the Nili-Na'aleh Wall to the east.
The Quartet meeting which comprises, the United States, the
United Nations, Russia and the European Union will discuss the revival of the
US-backed "road map" peace plan of 2003. According to the plan,
Israel was supposed to halt settlement building in the West Bank, which Israel
occupied in the 1967 Arab-Israel war and any other realities on the ground that
might prevent a two-state solution from happening.
Mar'i is a freelance Palestinian journalist based in Ramallah, Occupied
Palestine . He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.