Police Delay Move Into New E-1 Headquarters, but Deny Link to Presidential Visit

The Israel Police has delayed moving into a new building in the contested E-1 area near Jerusalem, which was originally slated to happen by the end of 2007. However, the police said the delay was unconnected to U.S. President George W. Bush's visit later this week.

The relocation of the Shai (Samaria and Judea District) headquarters to E-1, a corridor connecting Jerusalem to the settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim, has been planned for a long time. In an interview with Haaretz last October, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter announced that the move would take place by the end of 2007. The relocation to E-1, he added, was an "established fact" and would not be conditioned on American approval.

Spokesmen for both the police and the Public Security Ministry denied yesterday that the move had been postponed due to Bush's visit; they said the delay was necessary because the new building's infrastructure had not yet been completed. However, a source involved in the project told Haaretz: "No one knew about President Bush's visit when we talked about transferring the district headquarters by the end of 2007. It is reasonable to assume that the Israel Police would not have embarrassed the government in advance of the president's visit by moving the headquarters into its new building even if work on the building had been completed on time."

The building was erected on land that has been Jewish-owned since Ottoman times. The Public Security Ministry said yesterday that the move would take place in the next two or three months.

Originally, Israel had also planned to build some 3,500 apartments in E-1, which is technically part of Ma'aleh Adumim. However, the Palestinians, the Americans and other international players objected, arguing that such a project would sever the southern West Bank from the northern part and isolate East Jerusalem from both. Washington therefore exerted heavy pressure on Israel to freeze the plan, and in 2004, the government acceded.

In order to keep its claim to the area alive, however, Israel decided to go ahead with the planned new police station. Security facilities generally arouse less international opposition than do houses, because they are viewed as easily movable should a future Israeli-Palestinian agreement so dictate.

Israel views territorial linkage between Ma'aleh Adumim and Jerusalem as important because Ma'aleh Adumim is one of the major settlement blocs it seeks to keep under any agreement.