Israel Indefinitely Postpones Contentious Settlement Building Plan

Meetings on a plan to build in the West Bank's E1 region – described as 'doomsday settlements' by members of U.S. Congress – were delayed due to 'expert opinions' of unnamed Civil Administration members

הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf
Land in the E1 region near Ma'aleh Adumim, in 2020.
Land in the E1 region near Ma'aleh Adumim, in 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf

Israel postponed Wednesday the discussion on settlement construction in the West Bank's E-1 area to an unknown date.

The construction plan for the E-1 area would expand the large Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, effectively connecting it to Jerusalem, about a 15-minute drive away.

Opponents of the plan received an announcement saying that the decision was made because of “the expert opinions of certain officials in the Civil Administration,” but did not provide any details about whom the officials are or what their opinions involve.

In general, decisions to place or remove topics from the agenda for meetings on building in the West Bank require the approval of the political leadership. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office declined to comment, as did that of Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

The previous meeting on the building in E1 was held in November. About 100 Palestinians submitted objections to the building plan, but they did not participate in the proceedings because it was held on Zoom, and most of the objectors live in communities that do not have internet infrastructure.

Following an inquiry from Haaretz ahead of the meeting, the Civil Administration allowed the residents to participate in-person, but the message was sent out late at night, and the discussion was to be held the following morning.

The lawyers representing the Palestinians left the hearing early on, claiming that it is illegal to hold the meeting when the residents were not given the chance to participate in it. The Civil Administration's legal adviser of the objection subcommittee rejected these claims, though, and the hearing continued without the Palestinian objectors' representatives.

The area planned for construction is 12 square kilometers (4.6 square miles), and is located near Ma’aleh Adumim, between the northern and southern West Bank. Construction there would make it more difficult to establish a contiguous Palestinian state in the future. In the past, the building plan had been frozen due to U.S. pressure.

In November, 26 Democratic members of Congress called on U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to put pressure on the Israeli government to stop construction in the area. The plan, they wrote, represents an "irreconcilable challenge to a lasting peace solution between Israel and the Palestinians." These E1 communities would become “doomsday settlements,” they wrote, as they divide the northern and southern West Bank, and the West Bank from East Jerusalem.

Architect Alon Cohen-Lifshitz, a member of the Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights nonprofit and one of the opponents of the plan, expressed hope that postponing the meeting heralds the cancellation of the project.

“We hope that the postponement of the meeting in a somewhat mysterious manner signals that someone has woken up and realized the scope of the disaster that the approval of such plans could well bring about. Building a new city in a sensitive place while expelling the communities from where they live, a process that is a war crime, is an unacceptable idea,” he said.

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