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February 2, 2017

Ma’ale Adumim Is Not In Israel

by Anne Paddock

We didn’t steal the land from anybody. It was built on empty hills. You can see there – the desert, rocks and sand. Now you have a living city.  ~ Benny Kashriel, Mayor of Ma’ale Adumim

Ma’ale Adumim is an Israeli settlement in the West Bank built on a parcel of land that was seized from Jordan in 1967. Established in 1975, Ma’ale Adumim was given official status as an Israeli settlement in 1977 by Israel’s Prime Minister at the time, Menachem Begin although the settlement has not been recognized by Jordan or the rest of the world because the settlement is built on land that doesn’t belong to Israel.

Located about 4 miles from Jerusalem, Ma’ale Adumim has grown to about 40,000 residents and become a prominent bedroom community of Jerusalem. The Prime Minister of Israel (Benjamin Netanyahu), the mayor of Ma’ale Adumim (Benny Kashriel), along with conservative political groups support the addition of 100 new residences to Ma’ale Adumim and want to annex the settlement into Israel. Saying “We didn’t steal the land from anybody. It was built on empty hills. You can see there – the desert, rocks and sand. Now you have a living city” to the New York Times (Israel’s Hard-Liners Want to ‘Go Big’: Annex a Settlement), Mr. Kashriel seems to believe that if land is “desert, rocks, and sand” then it’s free for the taking. Ownership and titles don’t seem to matter. Except they do…they really matter if we are going to live in a world where there is a mutual respect for laws of ownership.

The world has been telling Israel for 50 years that settlements built on occupied land are not legal but this has not deterred Israel from building and expanding settlements in the West Bank. There are people who say the reason Israel continues to occupy and intends to annex settlements in the West Bank is to ensure the nation’s security. Most people can understand and empathize with Israel’s fear (which primarily concerns the radical Palestinian political groups) but the West Bank borders Jordan, a country that recognizes Israel, is an ally of the United States (a fierce supporter of Israel except on the settlement issues) and a supporter of the 2-state solution where Israel exists in Israel and the West Bank reverts to a Palestinian state. But, more importantly, fear is not  a reason to take something that is not yours.

On December 23, 2016, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2334 stating that Israel’s settlement activity is a violation of international law. Countries don’t have the right to build settlements on land they don’t own. The resolution passed 14-0 with the 14 votes cast by China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, Japan, Venezuela, Spain, Uruguay, Ukraine, Senegal, New Zealand, Malaysia, Egypt, and Angola.

The US abstained although they should have voted yes because the US has historically not supported the building of settlements on the West Bank. Not the Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, or the Obama administrations (See Analysis: US Consistent Against Settlements….in the Jerusalem Post). In all fairness, the US has historically not always supported the UN as the appropriate venue to determine this policy and therefore often vetoed resolutions until the most recent resolution passed in December. After 50 years of peace negotiations with no peace in sight, Israel needed to hear the truth from their strongest ally:  Israel’s steadfast refusal to stop occupying and building settlements in the West Bank has undermined everyone’s efforts for peace and a two-state solution.

By abstaining, the US was harshly criticized for not being supportive of Israel. Imagine being criticized for not supporting a friend who is doing something illegal and unjust, and telling her the truth (friends can disagree). If being supportive means not recognizing legal ownership, title, and international law, then the US would be spineless. But, the harsh attitude of so many hard-liners that the world is against Israel because of this disagreement is completely false. The world recognizes and respects Israel as a sovereign nation but the world also wants international law respected. That Israel doesn’t accept international law is a sad reflection on Israel and not the US.

So the old words of wisdom “treat people the way you want to be treated” falls on deaf ears in Israel. Somehow I can’t help but think that if Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt (countries that border Israel) took 2,165 square miles of Israel’s land, occupied it, built settlements, and then started annexing the land into their country, Israel would be indignant calling out the country for violating international law. What would Israel do if the US abstained from a resolution condemning that country’s actions?

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