Personal tools
You are here: Home Editorials The Reality of Israel Communities
Document Actions

The Reality of Israel Communities

George Rooks debunks common misconceptions about the "settlement" issue (4/2/2010).

The reality of Israeli communities
By George Rooks
April 2nd, 2010

Special to The Enterprise

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, knows something that the United Nations, the European Union, the Arab world and many Americans, including our local Davis “peacemakers,” do not know: Most of the cities, communities and neighborhoods built by Israelis in the West Bank and Jerusalem will never be part of a Palestinian state.

On March 10, numerous sources reported that in contrast to the Palestinians' public stance, they have quietly prepared a final status map whereby they will exchange 1.9 percent of the land they claim for an equal amount of land in Israel. This position has been confirmed by the Obama administration, which is now referring to “land swaps” to signal that the 1967 border will only be used as the “basis” of a final border between Israel and a state of Palestine.

In fact, the idea of land swaps is nothing new, having first been approved by the Palestinian Central Council subsequent to Camp David negotiations in 2000. In any case, the 1.9 percent Palestinian position is merely the opening proposal of a contentious negotiation to hammer out the final percentage and border. (Israelis have proposed a higher percentage.)

Even a 1.9 percent swap will mean that most of the Israeli cities and communities in the West Bank as well as “Jewish” neighborhoods in “east” Jerusalem will remain intact and in Israel. What are some of these West Bank cities and communities, often referred to as “illegal settlements”? They include Maaleh Adumim (36,000 population), Modiin Illit (42,000), Gush Etzion (40,000) and Betar Illit (35,000).

These are not trailers on remote hilltops housing tens of “settlers”; these are full-fledged suburban communities home to some 350,000 people and located a few kilometers from the 1967 border. Yet the world seems to share the delusion that one morning these cities and communities will suddenly vanish, along with their residents.

What of Jerusalem?

Jerusalem is particularly contentious but here, too, the borders will not be those of 1967. Does anyone seriously believe that Israel will hand over the Old City, with its Jewish Quarter and Western Wall, to the Palestinians? Does anyone seriously believe that the “Jewish” neighborhoods numbering some 200,000 residents will not be part of Israel?

Recently, Ramat Shlomo — an established Jerusalem neighborhood with approximately 16,500 residents — has been the source of intense controversy, with the poorly timed announcement during Vice President Joe Biden's visit of one of the many approvals necessary for 1,600 new homes.

Never mind that the additional Ramat Shlomo construction phase is still years away, and never mind that Benjamin Netanyahu — like every other Israeli prime minister since 1967 — has continued building within the post-1967 municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, the Obama administration was “insulted,” and the Palestinians who had just finished preparing their map were even more insulted. After all, the Palestinians cannot be seen to be less upset than the Obama administration over alleged Israeli transgressions.

This has been the unfortunate pattern of attempted negotiations since Obama's election: The Obama administration publicly chastises Israel; the Palestinians backtrack from their previous positions; more homes are built, and the future border slides; the attempt to restart negotiations goes nowhere.

Last year, Abbas said that “his only role (is) to wait … for the Obama administration to force a recalcitrant Netanyahu to freeze Israeli settlement construction” ( Just weeks ago (March 19), Hillary Clinton boasted that “escalating pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was 'paying off' ” ( But what the Obama administration fails to understand is that comments such as these make Israelis even more defensive and resistant to negotiations.

Arabs welcomed among Jews

In fact, most Israelis cannot understand the world's opinion about the neighborhoods in “east” Jerusalem for many reasons — not the least of which is the fact that a number of Arabs who live in “east” Jerusalem actually live in the “Jewish” communities in “east” Jerusalem. In the 1980s, the “Jewish” neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev was built in an area termed “east” Jerusalem. A New York Times article (2007) described Pisgat Zeev: “One of these (settlements), Pisgat Zeev, was established in 1982 to the east of Shuafat (an Arab neighborhood of “east” Jerusalem). With a population of more than 40,000, it is the fastest-growing neighborhood in the city. Palestinians and most of the world do not recognize the annexation of East Jerusalem and other areas occupied in the 1967 war; many consider neighborhoods like Pisgat Zeev to be illegal Jewish settlements.” (

But who actually lives in Pisgat Zeev today? According to the most recent population statistics, “about 1,300 of Pisgat Zeev's 42,000 residents are Arabs. In nearby French Hill, population 7,000, nearly one-sixth are Arabs, among them students at the neighboring Hebrew University of Jerusalem” (

The same article references Yousef Majlaton, one of the first Arabs to move into Pisgat Zeev: “Majlaton and his wife are both Hebrew-speaking Christians. He said his new neighbors cold-shouldered them when they arrived in 2002, but gradually became friendlier. He said he has since helped about 30 Arab families to move in and gets calls from prospective renters almost every day.

“While his primary motivation was quality of life, he says living in Pisgat Zeev is 'a nationalistic act' — a way to cement Arab presence in the city of his birth. He said Palestinian leaders should follow his lead: 'They should bring all the Arabs to Pisgat Zeev,' he said. 'Ill help them find homes one by one.' ”

In light of facts and comments such as these, one wonders why the Israeli government, so often accused by our local “peacemakers” of being an “apartheid” government, doesn't exclude Arabs from living in these communities?

The answer is simple. Like the rest of Israel, Jerusalem is a city where Jews, Muslims, Christians and people of other faiths live and work together. Just as Jerusalem will always be the capital of Israel, so will the major cities, communities and neighborhoods built by Israel since 1967 remain in Israel when a Palestinian state is established. It is time for the world to recognize what the Palestinians have already accepted.

— Davis resident George Rooks is a dual citizen of the United States and Israel and a founding member of the Davis Interfaith Coalition for Peace and Justice in the Middle East.

This site provided with the assistance of the Davis Community Network.