Emboldened by Trump, Israelis try redrawing Jerusalem’s boundaries

Palestinian laborers work at a construction site in a new housing project in the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem, in Feb 2017. (photo: Oded Balilty / AP)

Israeli leaders are re-engineering Jerusalem’s demographic balance by redrawing the city’s map to exclude Arab neighborhoods and include Israeli settlements.

By Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash | The Washington Post | Jan 12, 2018

The director of Israeli human rights group B’Tselem [says] there is a battle underway between those who want to continue “smart occupation,” which manages to “fly two inches below international outrage” while incrementally shifting facts on the ground, and those who advocate “dumb occupation” — moving forward with formal annexation.

Since becoming mayor of Maale Adumim more than 20 years ago, Benny Kashriel has doggedly campaigned for his community to be recognized as part of Israel.

Now, with President Trump in the White House, Kashriel thinks it may just happen.

His settlement is around four miles east of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank. Most of the international community, including the United States, considers its construction to be illegal, built on land captured during the 1967 war.

Still, it has steadily grown from what began as a cluster of prefabricated buildings erected by 23 families in the 1970s into a burgeoning satellite city of Jerusalem. Palm trees line the wide roads of what looks like a Florida suburb. Red-roofed houses and high-rises are home to 42,000 people, who are served by all of the accoutrements of a modern city: schools, restaurants, cafes and a shopping mall.

Expansion here is particularly contentious because it could cut off Arab areas of East Jerusalem from other Palestinian territory and hobble the creation of a viable Palestinian state. Still, Maale Adumim keeps growing. In the industrial park on its outskirts, already home to 360 businesses, ground has just been broken on “Design City,” a nearly 600,000-square-foot, 160-outlet interior-design retail mall.

While previous U.S. administrations called settlements an obstacle to the peace process, the Trump administration has been more restrained in publicly criticizing them, a clear break from the frequent censure under President Barack Obama of Israeli settlement activity.

Emboldened by a more supportive White House, Israeli leaders have proposed a flurry of bills and proclamations that seek to annex areas of the West Bank and re-engineer Jerusalem’s demographic balance by redrawing the city’s map to exclude Arab neighborhoods and include Israeli settlements.

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