Defense Minister Naftali Bennett announced Monday the approval of a plan to build a “separate road for Palestinians” to connect the northern and southern parts of the West Bank.
The construction of the road is meant to serve as a solution to a controversial settlement plan, known as E-1, that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revived two weeks ago. The plan to construct 3,500 homes, has been put on hold for years largely due to international criticism as the homes would cut off the northern part of the West Bank from the southern part, making it more difficult to create a viable Palestinian state.
The new road will not pass through any Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
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E-1 (East 1) is a 12 square kilometer area in the northwest section of the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim near Jerusalem. The plans for E-1 have existed since Yitzhak Rabin was prime minster in the 1990s, but the master plan and details have been held up since 2005 for political reasons.
The new road would connect with Route 4370, also known as the Eastern Ring Road, go around the Jerusalem, near al-Zaim just east of Jerusalem, and will continue to areas near Al Azariya and Jahalin southeast of Ma’aleh Adumim. Its purpose is to separate Palestinians and Israelis driving in the area. In order to cross the Adumim bloc today, Palestinians need to drive on Route 1, the main highway between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.
Paving the new road would mean that Israel could begin building the planned separation barrier around the Adumim bloc and go on to build housing units in the area. The IDF’s Civil Administration in the West Bank is now expected to begin the planning process for the road, which is expected to take months.
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“We are giving a green light to the ‘sovereignty road’ today” to connect Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim, Bennet said.
“The project will improve the quality of life of the residents of the area, prevent unnecessary friction with the Palestinian population, and most importantly – enable the continuation of building in the settlements. Imposing sovereignty in deeds, not in words. We will continue that way,” he continued.
In January 2019, Route 4370, which separates Israeli and Palestinian drivers, was opened northeast of Jerusalem. The road connects the Geva Binyamin region and Route 1, as well as the French Hill intersection and the Naomi Shemer Tunnel that leads to Mount Scopus. The road has been referred to as the “apartheid road” due to the fact that it is divided down the center by a eight-meter high wall.
Before the 2013 election, a discussion was held at Netanyahu’s order about advancing building plans for E-1 by the Civil Administration’s planning council, after which the plans were approved and moved to the next stage, which entailed being deposited for public comment. In protest, Britain and France discussed recalling their ambassadors from Israel. Construction plans were frozen after the election.
Haaretz reported later that year that the Construction and Housing Ministry had issued a tender to hire an architect to plan 1,200 housing units in the region. After the report, the Prime Minister’s Office said “there is no need to pay an international price for a planning process that has no real significance.”
In 2017, another attempt was made to promote the building of E-1 through a bill to annex Ma’aleh Adumim. The intention was to apply Israeli law to Ma’aleh Adumim, including E-1. Netanyahu acted to block the bill, which had been scheduled for discussion in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, because of messages he received from U.S. President Donald Trump.
In March 2017, senior officials in the coalition told Haaretz that they would not vote in favor of the law due to the Knesset's approaching spring recess. Since then the bill had not been brought up again for discussion.