In a somewhat perplexing move, the government appears to be preparing to turn the former Shdemah Base in the Gush Etzion area of Yehuda over to the Palestinian Authority to build a new Arab neighborhood near the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa.
Shdemah is designated as a Area “C” under Oslo, under total Israeli control, security and municipal, but Israel nevertheless appears to have decided to hand the former military base over to the PA to enable it to construct a new Arab neighborhood.
Ironically, the government recently constructed a new road traveling from the Har Homa area to eastern Gush Etzion to permit area residents a more direct route other than the Tunnel Highway which travels to the other side of Gush Etzion, as well as a safe alternate route since the Tunnel Highway is frequently closed due to suspicious objects and attacks. Arabs are barred from using the new road for the time being.
Protestors on Thursday and Friday were on hand at Shdemah to express anger and outrage over the government plan, led by Women in Green co-chairperson Nadia Matar, a resident of Gush Etzion.
Residents of the Gush and Har Homa oppose the plan, which will only serve to place area residents in greater jeopardy but all signs indicate the government is determined to give the base away to the PA.
United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Meir Porush is leading a battle to block the move legislatively, realizing the dangers such a new Arab neighborhood would pose to area residents. Porush was a key player in pushing through the Har Homa neighborhood, despite strong White House objections.
More interestingly, even Yitzchak Rabin, whose administration signed the Oslo Agreement in 1993, stated the Gush Etzion area is one which enjoys a wide consensus and it would never be given away to the PA. Nevertheless, the latest government plan appears to contradict this position, perhaps signaling Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has different plans for the future of Gush Etzion.
(Yechiel Spira – YWN Israel)