Israeli Bill to Annex Jerusalem-area Settlement Will Include Controversial E1 Area

Netanyahu may delay vote to avoid conflict with U.S.; Israeli governments since Rabin have sought to build in E1 to secure Ma’aleh Adumim’s contiguity with Israel proper.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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An Israeli flag is seen in front of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim.
An Israeli flag is seen in front of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim.Credit: AP
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

An Israeli bill to annex the West Bank settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim will be voted on by Israeli ministers on Sunday, two days after Donald Trump takes office and will also include a clause annexing the controversial E1 area, as a result of its inclusion in the settlement’s municipal boundaries.

But the bill’s sponsor, MK Yoav Kish (Likud) said he would be willing to exclude the controversial bloc from the draft law in the event its inclusion created a crisis within the governing coalition.

“It absolutely could happen that as part of a compromise we would put the bill through without E1. It’s something to think about ... I don’t want someone to say he isn’t willing to join the process as a result of [Israeli] sovereignty being imposed also on E1,” Kish said.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation is scheduled to discuss the draft law on Sunday, but a senior Likud official said on Tuesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might postpone or even cancel a vote on the bill in order to avoid conflict with the incoming U.S. administration.

“It is hard to believe that Netanyahu will challenge President-elected Donald Trump with a bill that could create such a significant change in the region, only two days after [Trump] takes office,” said the official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity. He said it was likely that the bill would wait until the relations with the new administration are established more fully.

Development plans for E1, an area of 12 square kilometers, north and west of Ma’aleh Adumim, that was previously placed inside the settlement’s municipal borders, have raised strong objections from the Palestinians and the international community in the past, and all such plans since 2005 have been put on hold. The Palestinians claim that Israeli construction in E1 would partly cut off the northern West Bank from the southern part and make it more difficult to create a contiguous Palestinian state.

The heads of three coalition parties — Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon of Kulanu, Interior Minister Arye Dery of Shas and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman of United Torah Judaism — declined to state a position on the bill to annex Ma’aleh Adumim. While the Ministerial Committee votes on which bills will receive official government backing, the decision of whether to support or block a sensitive bill is often determined by the prime minister, or in advance negotiations between the coalition parties.

Kulanu and UTJ will only decide on how they will vote on the bill at the last minute before Sunday’s vote, said senior party officials on Wednesday.

Israeli governments since Yitzhak Rabin’s have sought to build in E1 to secure Ma’aleh Adumim’s contiguity with Israel proper, if and when a Palestinian state is established. The Israeli fear is that without “facts on the ground” in E1, Ma’aleh Adumim, which has a population of around 40,000, could end up as a nonviable Israeli enclave inside a Palestinian state.

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