For weeks now, we have been reading about how the Netanyahu government’s E1 plan is going to doom the two-state solution by making territorial contiguity in the Palestinian state impossible and cutting off Ramallah from East Jerusalem. I thought it was suspicious that no article—without exception—I read about this complicated geographical, nay, cartographical issue was accompanied by a map. This omission is particularly surprising because in our information age it is just a matter of cutting and pasting, and because in our hieroglyphic civilization images rule.
Alas, impressions—and denunciations—especially of Israel are more powerful than pictures these days. My suspicions were further aroused by what I know from driving around Israel. You get to the area of E1 by driving north then east from the Old City or Central Jerusalem—take a right at French Hill and go toward Ma’ale Adumim. But you get to Ramallah by driving due north, although in highway terms, you go on the 443 and in the area near Pisgat Zeev, you turn right, instead of going straight to Modi’in then Tel Aviv.
In short, the East Jerusalem-Ramallah route is not cut off or at all affected by E1. The map accompanying this post is taken from the Peace Now website—both because Peace Now is a critic of Israeli settlement and because it has built an impressive reputation for accurate reporting of these details over the years. This map demonstrates that E1 is an eastern enclave—in the red—irrelevant to the East Jerusalem-Ramallah route.
Looking at the map, of course, offers a political Rorschach test. Critics of Israel will see the blue islands as Israeli intrusions into Palestine. This requires an extremely selective, one-sided reading of history that reads Jews out of that region’s history. I see the blue and I see the beige and I see two peoples with complex, overlapping ties to the same land. I see the need to try to accommodate both narratives, both needs, and reject any one-sided reading of the past—or one-sided prescriptions for the future.
And that is why I am muddying this debate with the facts and the maps. I am on record as having disagreed with Netanyahu’s decision to respond to the U.N.’s Palestine upgrade with the E1 move. Tactically, it was foolish to alienate the Barack Obama administration so quickly. Ideologically, it undermined the pro-settler community’s own claim that these are organic communities and not bargaining chips or battering rams. But I am also on record as having said that too much of the discussion about Israel is biased, cut off from the facts, disrespectful of history and too simplistic. This E1 brouhaha fits the bill.