World

Jerusalem settlement plans threaten Palestinian state

Harriet Sherwood

Despite its prosaic name, E1 has the potential to kill off hopes for a viable Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, say opponents.

A Bedouin camp is seen near the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim in the occupied West Bank. (AFP)

Israeli officials say construction on E1, which lies on a 12 squared kilometre site east of Jerusalem, is the logical and necessary expansion of Maale Adumim, a vast settlement east of the pre-1967 Green Line, to meet demand for homes close to the city that Israel claims is its indivisible capital. Plans to develop the land have been in existence for almost 14 years, but they have been kept on hold largely owing to pressure from Washington. 

Mostly stretching towards Jericho, E1 is home to a number of Bedouin communities and their livestock, plus a huge Israeli police headquarters perched strategically on a hill. A network of roads has been constructed, but it is closed to civilian traffic. 

Implementation of the E1 development plan, approved in 1999, would largely complete a crescent of Jewish settlements around the east of Jerusalem, separating it from Palestinian towns and cities in the West Bank. It would also almost bisect the West Bank, making a contiguous Palestinian state almost impossible. 

According to the Israeli human rights organisation B’tselem, implementation of the E1 plan will have “far-reaching consequences and will interrupt the contiguity of the southern and northern West Bank”. 

“Construction in E1 will further increase the forced isolation between the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It will enclose East Jerusalem from the east, connect to the Israeli neighbourhoods built north of Jerusalem’s Old City and create a physical and functional barrier between East Jerusalem and the Palestinian population in adjacent West Bank communities, for which the city serves as the main metropolitan and religious centre,” it said. 

Forcible relocation
The Israeli authorities have taken steps to implement a plan to forcibly relocate more than 1 000 Bedouin who live and graze their livestock on the stony hills. Demolition orders have been issued for homes, animal pens and a school built from discarded car tyres. 

Israel has said the buildings were constructed without permission, which is almost impossible to obtain. 

The original plan entailed moving the Bedouin families to a site close to Jerusalem’s main rubbish dump. Following legal challenges and international pressure, Israel has said it will consult the communities on their relocation. 

Israel’s decision to press ahead with the development of E1 in the aftermath of the United Nations general assembly’s recognition of the state of Palestine signals an intention to build, rather than the start of construction, which would be many years away. 

Maale Adumim is home to about 40 000 people. Resembling a small city, it has more than 20 schools and 80 kindergartens, 40 synagogues and several shopping malls. The majority of its residents are secular Jews, who do not consider themselves settlers but inhabitants of a suburb of Jerusalem. 

Israel has said Maale Adumim and other main settlement blocks close to the Green Line must be on the Israeli side of any future border. 

All settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank are illegal under international law. – Guardian News & Media 2012

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