Democratic Lawmakers Warn Against 'Doomsday' Israeli Settlement Plan

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Israeli right-wing activists march near the E-1 area near Ma'ale-Adumim in support of the creation of a settlement there, in 2007.
Israeli right-wing activists march near the E-1 area near Ma'ale-Adumim in support of the creation of a settlement there, in 2007.Credit: TOMER NEUBERG / JINI

WASHINGTON - Twenty-six House Democrats on Monday urged U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to pressure the Israeli government to prevent settlement construction in the E1 area between Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The lawmakers  led by Rep. Mark Pocan, who recently visited Israel and the West Bank  expressed their "immense concern" about Israeli efforts to advance approval of the settlements, highlighting how settlements entrench the occupation, undermine the prospects of a two-state solution, diminish the viability of a Palestinian state, and represent a violation of international law.

The lawmakers note that there was a 28 percent increase in settlement construction during the Trump administration, a stark departure from previous U.S. administrations from both parties. They describe efforts to advance the approval of 3,400 housing units in E1 as "an irreconcilable challenge to a lasting peace solution," describing the plans as "doomsday settlements."

Construction in E1, which is east of Jerusalem beyond the Green Line (the armistice demarcation line before the 1967 Six-Day War), has long been considered a red line for previous U.S. administrations and a point of no return for a potential two-state solution. Construction in the 12-square-kilometer (4.6-square-mile) area, which the lawmakers describe as "a vital corridor to Palestinian life," would effectively split the West Bank in half, impeding traffic between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank and between the West Bank and East Jerusalem—effectively dooming a potential Palestinian state.

U.S. lawmakers Jamaal Bowman and Mark Pocan visiting the West Bank, this month.Credit: Mark Pocan's Twitter account

Plans for building in the area have existed since the days of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, though master plans and detailed zoning plans have been held up for political reasons since 2005.

The lawmakers also requested an update on the State Department's efforts to discourage E1 settlement advancement within the next month. The Biden administration gave its sharpest public rebuke of Israel's settlement policy last month, expressing deep concern with plans to advance thousands of settlement units in the West Bank and the publication of tenders for 1,300 settlement units in a number of West Bank settlements. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield notably highlighted settlement expansion during her recent meeting with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, signaling that the administration's public posture toward Israel will be further dictated by Israeli settlement activity.

The other lawmakers to sign onto the letter include Reps. Don Beyer, Earl Blumenauer, Andre Carson, Andy Levin, Joaquin Castro, Alan Lowenthal, Steve Cohen, Jim McGovern, Judy Chu, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Debbie Dingell, Don Payne, Anna Eshoo, Chellie Pingree, Jared Huffman, David Price, Sara Jacobs, Jan Schakowsky, Pramila Jayapal, Maxine Waters, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Peter Welch, Mondaire Jones, John Yarmuth and Barbara Lee.

Americans for Peace Now’s President and CEO Hadar Susskind described E1 settlement construction as "the textbook example" of unilateral actions that make achieving a two-state solution more difficult, saying "it is vital that Israel halt the approval process. We are grateful to Congressman Pocan and the 25 other signatories for their bold leadership against this. I hope the Biden Administration will use every diplomatic tool to prevent this from happening.”

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