In response to Gareth Smith (Echonetdaily January 13), I certainly do not accept the claim that Israel ‘confiscated’ the land on which the Israeli suburb of Gilo is located. Nor do I accept that this area was a part of ‘Bethlehem’s northern lands’. Gilo is located on a hilltop in the southern part of Jerusalem. Bethlehem lies further to the south and is separated from Gilo geographically by a deep gorge.
Archaeological excavations reveal that Gilo was the site of an Israelite village for many centuries from the beginning of the Iron Age onwards. Modern Gilo was built as a suburb of Jerusalem in 1973. According to Jerusalem-born scholar and urban planner Israel Kimhi, Gilo was established on land that had been legally purchased by Jews before World War II, much of it during the 1930s. They were the legal owners of the land when the area was captured and illegally occupied by the Jordanians during the 1948 war. In 1967, after repelling a further attack against it by the Jordanian army, Israel captured the West Bank, including the parts of Jerusalem which Jordan had previously occupied, and Gilo was restored to its Jewish owners. For this reason the Israelis say Gilo is neither illegal nor a settlement, while Palestinians claim that the land on which Gilo is built belongs to the Palestinian villages of Sharafat, Beit Jala and Beit Safafa.
Unlike Mr Smith, I do not propose to act as judge and jury over what appears to be a complex legal dispute over private ownership of land. What is beyond dispute is that in every proposal and counter-proposal that Israel and the Palestinians have discussed for a two-state solution, the major settlement blocs that are contiguous to the pre-1967 armistice line, including Gilo, have been included within Israel, and that Israel has offered to include an equivalent part of its pre-1967 territory in the State of Palestine. What has been at issue is the extent of the land swap, the range being between 4 per cent and 8 per cent of the total area of the West Bank. Nobody, not even Bob Carr, who is quoted by Mr Smith, has disputed that there should be a land swap.
Vic Alhadeff, CEO, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies