NYTimes correction on E-1 — do they have it right now, or not?

The New York Times has today issued a correction to an earlier story on E-1 [published on 2 December here]:
An article on Dec. 2 about Israel’s decision to move forward with planning and zoning for settlements in an area east of Jerusalem known as E1 described imprecisely the effect of such development on access to the cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem from Jerusalem, and on the West Bank. Development of E1 would limit access to Ramallah and Bethlehem, leaving narrow corridors far from the Old City and downtown Jerusalem; it would not completely cut off those cities from Jerusalem. It would also create a large block of Israeli settlements in the center of the West Bank; it would not divide the West Bank in two. And because of an editing error, the article referred incompletely to the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state. Critics see E1 as a threat to the meaningful contiguity of such a state because it would leave some Palestinian areas connected by roads with few exits or by circuitous routes; the proposed development would not technically make a contiguous Palestinian state impossible.  This correction was published in the NYTimes print edition today [though this correction is dated 7 December and was earlier posted online on 10 December], and is posted here.]

[UPDATE: CAMERA has taken credit here for pushing the NYTimes to issue this + another correction {concerning a story published on 30 November here}...Hat tip to Max Blumenthal {who on Twitter called the latest correction "absurd"}:
@MaxBlumenthal -- Right-wing pro-Israel media monitoring front CAMERA takes credit for absurd NY Times "correction" on E1 settlements: http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=2&x_outlet=35&x_article=2357 … ]

Well, does the NYTimes have it right, now? No.

First of all, cutting to the crux, E-1 development by itself would probably not “technically make a contiguous Palestinian state impossible”, no.

But it would make movement for Palestinians so difficult that they would stay at home most of the time.

Maybe providing a massive, frequent, comfortable and convenient and inexpensive helicopter service between the north and the south and the east of the West Bank would solve the problem, but that’s not going to happen — and why would anyone want kind of a solution?

In any case, the real problem is that any of the proposed solutions [roads, tunnels, bridges -- but not helicopters, not really, as we're not talking about Brasilia] are dependent on Israeli happiness and good will at all times.

One incident could and would result in the cutting off of movement for hours or for months + years.

The NYTimes correction says almost dismissively, as if it is of little or no importance, that only “some Palestinian areas” would be affected. So, we shouldn’t care about that? It’s not supposed to matter?

What Palestinians want is freedom, dignity, independence, and real self-rule in their own state — it cannot be argued that Palestinians have had any kind of real self-rule since the signing of the Oslo Accords, which were supposed to be a transition to self-rule, in September 1993.

Palestinians want and deserve a return to some zone of comfort in their daily lives which has not existed for many years, particularly since the start of the Second Intifada at the end of September 2000.

And, as American presidents have said, they deserve dignity, and dignified lives.

Akiva Eldar, in a piece published in Al-Monitor, reminds us that although the Levy report might argue that the West Bank is not occupied [but instead disputed, and apparently therefore up for Israel to grab], this is not the view of most of the outside world.

Eldar was writing about what he viewed as a rather limp reaction by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Netanyahu’s E-1 announcement [which Eldar call "agreeing to disagree"]: “Presumably, when she said at the press conference that Israel was a sovereign state and therefore Germany could not impose its position on the settlements, Merkel did not mean to say that Israel was the sovereign in the West Bank. Israel itself does not claim ownership over Area E1. The proposed plan was submitted for the approval of the planning and construction committee of the Civil Administration in the occupied territories and not to the parallel committee in Jerusalem. Even according to Israel’s official position, the question of sovereignty over these areas, as well as over the rest of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, remains controversial. Furthermore, in 2003 Netanyahu was a cabinet member in then-prime minister Ariel Sharon’s government, which signed an international commitment to abstain from taking such actions. The road map hatched out by the the Quartet, which consisted of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations and submitted to Israel and the Palestinians explicitly stated that Israel had to completely discontinue all construction in the territories”. This is posted here.

An article published on 15 December on the +972 internet magazine website, here, the authors write: “The timing of the [E-1] announcement is the clearest possible statement that Netanyahu and his coalition partners do not recognize the legitimate Palestinian desire for statehood, and will take extraordinary steps to prevent it. While Israel failed to block the largely symbolic Palestinian bid for self-determination at the UN, it retains the ability to eliminate the possibility of a viable Palestinian state on the ground. If building in E1 goes ahead, the West Bank will be bifurcated between north and south, and East Jerusalem, the would-be capital of any Palestinian state, will be permanently severed from the rest of the West Bank”.

But, it’s not just the building. Planned development in E-1 is for a new community called “Mevasseret Adumim”. That would entail a miserable and morally repugnant displacement of the Khan al-Ahmar Bedouin. But by itself Mevaseret Adumim does not cut the West Bank into two. What will cut very deeply into the West Bank right across the middle is the planned construction of The Wall all around E-1 and further east, curving around to enclose the settlement of Qedar to the south, with Maale Adumim in the middle. This Wall will of course be impassible for Palestinians, who will be forced to detour around it — at extreme inconvenience to Palestinians no matter how many nice new Israeli roads and bridges and less-nice tunnels will be built as a concession to “preserve the quality of life of the Palestinian population”.

But then, the +972 argument veers into a direction that can be called the “boogey-man” scare tactic, warning that this could provoke Palestinian violence — and what it says, exactly, is that “violent resistance to Israel, characterized by the actions of Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and others, will prove ever more attractive. Historically, when other avenues to statehood have been frustrated, Palestinians have resorted to resistance against Israel, sometimes peaceful, sometimes violent”.

The +972 article continues: Contemporary life in the West Bank provides no shortage of frustration. Anyone who has spent even a day traveling in the West Bank will understand the almost super-human patience [n.b. - it requires far more than patience] involved in navigating the web of settlements, bypass roads, checkpoints, and the separation barrier, particularly as it meanders away from the Green Line. And the majority of Palestinian interactions with Israelis are often of the worst possible kind. Violent, fanatical, and destructive settlers are often protected by the IDF. Night raids and home demolitions are regular occurrences throughout the West Bank. Palestinians rarely interact with Israelis in such a way that would engender empathy or understanding (and vice versa). The two peoples couldn’t be further from a sense of common destiny. Under such circumstances all that is needed for the next Palestinian uprising is a trigger … the relative quiet of the past seven years has meant that a majority of Israelis live in a bubble of imagined security. The bus that exploded on November 21 in Tel Aviv is a terrible reminder of the massive human toll that a return to open hostilities will reap. A new settlement bloc cannot possibly be worth the price. Time is short. The settlement construction in E1 might prove to be the last stop on the road to a third Intifada. Israel’s leaders must finally come to accept that the frustration of Palestinian national aspirations leads to serious consequences. It’s time for a new path”.

It is really not a very convincing debating point, even if it might be true, to hold up the spectre of renewed communal violence as an argument to persuade any party to do what it ought to do, or to avoid what should not be done.

The preparations needed for a Third Intifada are not in place, whatever the provocations. There is no decision by the Palestinian leadership to take this route, which had such disastrous consequences earlier for all involved. And, the Palestinians themselves are exhausted, weakened, and hugely resentful of the situation that exists. They do not trust each other, with reason. There is no organization able to bring them quickly together.

Against this background, and as it happens, there has just been a recent announcement, reported by Khaled Abu Toameh in the Jerusalem Post, and published here, that a group from various Palestinian factions has come together to form a new movement [the Kata'eb al-Wahda[t] Wataniya, or, roughly, the National Unity Brigages] and announce the start of a Third Intifada.

Abu Toameh reported that “Masked men belonging to various Palestinian factions on Saturday announced the
establishment of the Brigades of National Unity in Hebron and the beginning of a third intifada against Israel. In a video posted on several Palestinian websites, a spokesman for the new group said it consisted of members of Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The spokesman said that although his group backed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s statehood bid at the UN, ‘We will not give up one inch of the lands of Palestine, from the river to the sea’.”

OK. This sounds just like Khaled Meshal’s collected remarks since the cease-fire agreement that ended the IDF Pillar of Clouds in Gaza. While he wants all of Palestine, as of course many Palestinians also do, he is happy with a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders [with minor agreed + negotiated swaps], as just accepted as a non-member observer in the UN at the initiative of PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas.

While this has caused a certain Israeli revulsion and recrimination, it could perhaps be pointed out that there are movements within Israeli society that want either most of, or all of, “historic Palestine” as well — and there are even some who want to be able to dispose of Jordan as they please [giving it to the Palestinians is usually the proposed choice], as well. They may well want this, but this doesn’t mean they will get it. And it is the responsibility of responsible leaderships to contain such desires.

Neither side will be able to win the liberation of this or that part, or all, of Palestine, purely as they wish.

The National Unity Brigades want the end of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank [including East Jerusalem] and Gaza — something which almost all Palestinians ascribe to. They called for an end to Israeli “aggression against the Palestinian people”, which all Palestinians want.

And then, the National Unity Brigades listed demands that are so normal and mild they could be, well, they could have been made by Mahmoud Abbas himself [or even Salam Fayyad]: “The spokesman demanded that Israel remove all checkpoints and barriers in the West Bank, release all Palestinians from Israeli prisons, withdraw fully from Palestinian territories, release funds belonging to the PA government and reopen all the border crossings”.

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