Thirteen years ago, the first Netanyahu administration built the settlement of Har Homa on land inside the Palestinian city of Bethlehem. Har Homa has struggled to find residents and is still largely empty. The head of the residents committee recently claimed it had filled 4,000 properties, but a tour of the development tells another story, with building after building unglazed and cold.Might I comment, Jonathan asked?
So, first, the part about Bethlehem. Har Homa, and Um Tuba, and Tsur Baher, are all situated in what the Jordanians defined as the Bethlehem county. Not the city, the county. Since the Jordanian control of the West Bank was illegal according to international law, and lasted only 19 years ending in 1967, one might wonder why it's important to mention and if the author's description is helpful. More significant, however, was the part about the empty buildings. I admit I'd never heard that there are lots of empty apartments in Har Homa, rather the opposite, but it never hurts to check. So one evening last week I drove down to Har Home, about a 20-minute drive from where I live. It was early evening, when families with children tend to have lots of lights on, and cars are parked out in front. Lo and behold: most buildings had lights in the windows and cars parked out front. The only place that fit the Guardian's description was at the edge of the neighborhood, where some of the buildings are clearly just a bit short of being populated, in that chaotic stage where the construction workers are still there but the first movers can be seen coming.
I came away with the surprising result that once again, the Guardian isn't the most trustworthy purveyor of facts about Israel.
Yesterday the Guardian joined up with Al Jazeera to launch what they're calling "The Palestine Papers". I admit I don't know if these papers are or are not authentic. However, they tell that the Palestinian negotiators apparently acquiesced to the Clinton Parameters of December 2000, whereby Jerusalem would be divided along ethnic lines: Jewish neighborhoods in Israel, Arab ones in Palestine. Except when they didn't: they were not willing to except Israeli control of Maale Adumim (population of about 40,000), nor of Har Homa. Perhaps because Har Homa is the most recent of Jewish neighborhoods, with construction beginning in the 1990s (and still going on today). There are somewhere betwen 15-20,000 people in Har Homa, but they must leave, say the Palestinians. True, the hill lies less than a mile from the Green Line of 1967, and there are no Palestinian neighborhoods that will be "trapped" between it and Jewish Jerusalem, but it must be dismantled.
So I went down there again today, to look around in daylight. Here's what some of it it looks like from the main road, traveling east.
Looking out from their windows one can see the security fence (the winding road) with Bait Sachur, a suburb of Bethlehem, or Tsur Baher, or, if they're pointed west, they can see the hotel at Ramat Rachel, which is inside the Green Line. None of it is very far.
Next chapter of this series: Beit Safafa. I assure you that if you've found any of this so far disconcerting, the story of Beit Safafa is even worse. There's nothing in it that fits the universally accepted narrative. The only way to deal with it is to pretend it isn't there: which is what everybody does, of course.