Q&A: What Is Area E-1, Anyway?

Why are the U.S. and Europe so furious over Israel's planned construction in area E-1? Haaretz presents a series of questions and answers on the controversial area between Jerusalem and the settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim.

In response to the UN vote on Palestine last week, Israel announced its intention to move ahead with settlement construction in the area known as E-1, located between Ma'aleh Adumim and Jerusalem in the West Bank. This plan, which is separate from the 3,000 housing units Israel announced it will begin constructing in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, is considered an especially controversial area. Learn more.

Q. What is E-1, anyway?

A. E-1 is an area of 12 square kilometers, stretching from the north and the west of the town of Ma’aleh Adumim in the West Bank. For purposes of comparison, Lod and Ramat Gan are about the same size. The area is within the municipal jurisdiction of Ma’aleh Adumim.

Q. What is the status of the land there?

A. Most of the area has been declared state land. Another part of the area was expropriated for the town of Ma’aleh Adumim in the 1970s. There are also enclaves of Palestinian land in the area, but the plan does not relate to them.

Q. What does the name E-1 mean?

A. In the past the state related to the area east of Jerusalem as Area E, from the word “east.” Thus, for example, in the government decision to establish the settlement of Mitzpeh Yeriho it was written that the location would be in “Area E Ma’aleh Adumim.” The digit 1 was added to indicate this specific area. At the Ma’aleh Adumim municipality they prefer to simply call the site Ma’aleh Adumim.

Q. What is the state planning to do with this area?

A. The area has a general master plan, from which another five master plans are derived: two residential, one industrial, one for hotels and one for a water reservoir called Katef Tzofim. The employment zone plan is for 1,340 dunams, including 10 hotels with 2,152 rooms and another 260 housing units. The residential plans are split into two regions: south, for which 1,250 housing units are planned on 935 dunams, and east, with 2,400 housing units on 1,250 dunams.

Q. What is the status of the plans?

A. Each plan has a different status but all of them have been stuck in various planning stages since 2005.

Q. What happened in 2005?

A. In 2004, the Housing Ministry began massive earthworks in the area. The Palestinian Authority complained to the Bush Administration. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, who was the liaison with the Prime Minister’s Bureau, asked for clarifications. Dov Weissglas, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s envoy, promised that Israel would not build in E-1. And indeed, in 2005 the plans were frozen, and have remained so ever since.

Q. How did they start building if there are no building permits?

A. From 2003-2005 the Housing Ministry, under the leadership of Minister Effie Eitam, did massive illegal building in a number of places. E-1 was only one of them.

Q. What did they build there?

A. The Housing Ministry prepared, with an investment of millions of shekels, the infrastructure for putting up residential buildings in the southern neighborhood. This included a cloverleaf interchange over Highway 1, a three-lane highway in each direction, excavation in the rock in order to flatten the hill, preparation for sewage infrastructures and the like.

Q. So whom does this serve?

A. At the top of the hill stands the Shai District police station and the police personnel drive on this road. The rest of the area is empty and serves as a wonderful photo-op for right-wing politicians.  

Q. The right is saying it is not a political matter: Even Yitzhak Rabin pushed for construction there.

A. Indeed. In Rabin’s day, in 1994, the government started the initial planning of the area.

Q. Another argument the right is raising is that this is essential for creating contiguity between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim.

A. False. There is no possibility of creating contiguity between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim because even if E-1 is built, a belt made up by the Arab towns of Anata, Al Zaiyim and Azariya will stand in between.

Q. The world is saying that building in the area will cut the two parts of the West Bank off from each other. Is that correct?

A. Yes and no. Since Palestinians are forbidden to enter Jerusalem, the traffic from the northern part of the West Bank to the southern part goes through Azariya, Wadi Nar and Abu Dis. This is a terrible and extremely hilly access route, which runs though populated areas and routinely has traffic jams. In normal transportation planning, it would be necessary to build a new road, part of which would go through E-1. In the past, Israel had an alternative plan: Highway 80, which was supposed to bypass Ma’aleh Adumim to the east in a huge ring and would link the northern and southern parts of the West Bank.
 

Emil Salman
Haaretz