Israel shelves plans for E1 settlement project ‘splitting West Bank in two’

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  June 10, 2023

A plan to build thousands of settlement homes in the occupied West Bank will be postponed amid fears of international outcry.

Israel is set to shelve a plan to expand a settlement east of Jerusalem, which, if constructed, would divide the occupied West Bank in two.

The government’s subcommittee for objections within the Higher Planning Committee of the Civil Administration, which authorizes settlement construction in the West Bank, is planned to meet on Monday to discuss the project.

The plans for the E1 settlement project, which would see 3,412 housing units built for Jewish settlers on occupied Palestinian lands, would connect the Kfar Adumim and Ma’ale Adumim settlements with occupied East Jerusalem.

According to the Israeli news outlet Haaretz, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked the Ma’ale Adumim council to withdraw its request to hold the controversial hearing on the E1 project.

The plan would effectively split the West Bank in half, isolating East Jerusalem from Palestinian communities in the West Bank and force Palestinians to make even lengthier detours to travel from one place to another while allowing for settlements housing Israelis to expand.

The United States and the European Union have long objected to the settlement plan, warning successive Israeli administrations not to move forward with the project.

Alon Cohen Lifshitz from Bimkom, an Israeli human rights group of professional planners and architects, called the proposal a “war crime”. Bimkom was set to raise objections if the meeting went ahead next week.

Speaking to Middle East Eye earlier this week, Lifshitz said: “Our main objection from an international law perspective is that it’s a war crime. Within the areas of the boundaries in the plan are three communities. The approval of the plans will create a forcible transfer of these communities who were there before the plans were even approved.”

The expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank has left a patchwork of increasingly divided Palestinian communities in the occupied territory, making the viability of a future Palestinian state more unlikely.

It also creates what Israelis have termed “facts on the ground”, an argument Israel has used in the past to push for the inclusion of settlements on Palestinian land as part of Israel in any future final status negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. 

While the E1 project represents the most visible attempt for such an initiative, Lifshitz said that the “whole West Bank is fragmented by settlements all over, that creates a matrix of control scattered over the occupied territories”.

Even if the expansion is not built, “I don’t see there being a strong connection between the north and the south of the West Bank”, he added.


Netanyahu postpones meeting on controversial Jewish settlement plan

Middle East Monitor  /  June 10, 2023

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to postpone a meeting on a settlement plan that divides the occupied West Bank into two parts.

The meeting was scheduled next week and was slated to discuss the highly controversial settlement plan in the E1 area of the occupied West Bank.

For more than 20 decades, several Democratic and Republican US administrations have pressed Israel not to build a settlement in the area between occupied Jerusalem and the Jewish settlement of Ma’ale Adumim in the occupied West Bank.

Building an Israeli settlement in this area would separate the occupied West Bank from the occupied holy city of Jerusalem, thus preventing Palestinian territorial contiguity and would make it much harder to establish a Palestinian state in the future.

Axios reported that the decision, which angers the Jewish settlers, comes as Netanyahu appears to be trying to de-escalate tensions with the Biden administration with the hope it will lead to getting an invitation for a meeting with the US president in the White House.

In March, President Biden said that Netanyahu would not be getting an invitation to the White House “in the near term.”

Recently, the Biden administration and several EU countries have expressed concern to Netanyahu and his aides about the intention to hold a meeting about the E1 plan and asked for it to be canceled, Axios said.