Both Israelis and Palestinians remember the Oslo years as a time when they made lots of concessions and got nothing in return. On balance, however, I think it's clear that those years served to strengthen Israel's position, and Har Homa is a good reason why. This housing development, which as Dennis Ross explained in The Missing Peace
is designed to sever Jerusalem from Bethlehem and thus secure Jewish claims to the entire city of Jerusalem, was opened by Benjamin Netanyahu on the grounds that it was a politically necessary trade-off in exchange for implementing some element of the Oslo Accords, probably a withdrawal. Once Oslo fell apart, of course, military postures proved much easier to change than a neighborhood, and Har Homa remains standing to this day as one of the 1990s' practical legacies.
Now we may be seeing the same pattern, as Ehud Olmert is set to expand the neighborhood
, which Israel considers an integral part of Jerusalem and thus not subject to its freeze on West Bank settlement. I suspect that behind the scenes Olmert is talking about coalition politics, or perhaps he really does intend to hold on to far more of Jerusalem than serious peacemakers have traditionally thought possible. Either way, in a few years, these new housing units will be an accomplished fact, and any potential Palestinian state rendered a little less geographically viable.
(Crossposted to American Footprints
Labels: Israel, Palestine