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3,500 homes in East Jerusalem Jewish neighborhoods advanced

Plans to move forward with E1 settlement construction reportedly on hold

A meeting to hear objections to the decades-stalled project in the highly controversial area outside Jerusalem has reportedly been indefinitely delayed

A picture taken from the controversial E1 corridor in the West Bank shows the Israeli settlement of Ma'ale Adumim in the background, Feb. 25, 2020. (Ahamd Gharabli/AFP)
A picture taken from the controversial E1 corridor in the West Bank shows the Israeli settlement of Ma'ale Adumim in the background, Feb. 25, 2020. (Ahamd Gharabli/AFP)

A meeting of the Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration to discuss plans to expand settlement building in a controversial tract east of Jerusalem has been delayed indefinitely, the Haaretz daily reported Wednesday.

The meeting had been planned to hear public objections over plans to build thousands of homes on 12 square kilometers next to Ma’ale Adumim in an area known as E1. The area is viewed by the international community as a vital corridor for Palestinian movement, and settlement building there has been vociferously opposed by the US, EU and others.

Some 100 Palestinians attempted to voice objections during a previous meeting, but were hampered by the fact that it was held over Zoom, according to the newspaper.

The Civil Administration told Haaretz that the decision to cancel the meeting was based on “the opinion of certain experts in the Civil Administration.”

The plan, which was most recently promoted in early 2020 by then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was intended to build around 3,400 homes on the controversial plot of land.

The project contained two plans north of Ma’ale Adumim totaling 3,426 homes that were prepared by the government of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1994 and advanced through an early planning stage called “deposit” in 2004 by the Civil Administration, the Defense Ministry body responsible for authorizing settlement construction. Then-prime minister Ariel Sharon dropped the plans upon the request of US president George W. Bush. In 2012, Netanyahu greenlit the resurrection of the plan, but it was later frozen amid international pressure.

Settlers and right wing activists hold evening prayers after attending a march in the area known as E1 near the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim on February 13, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Almost two years after Netanyahu brought it back once again, the proposal was still in its early stages of planning and two meetings to discuss objections had already been held. The third meeting, slated for later this month, has now been put indefinitely on hold.

When the plan was first announced, the EU strongly criticized the move, saying it would “cut the geographic and territorial contiguity between East Jerusalem and the West Bank.”

And in November, 26 Democratic members of Congress sent a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging him to pressure Israel against moving forward with the E1 building project.

The letter said that “plans to build settlements in E1 have been referred to as ‘doomsday settlements’ because they would threaten the territorial contiguity necessary for a viable independent Palestinian state by dividing the north of the West Bank from the south, as well as the West Bank from East Jerusalem.”

The members of Congress said settlements “pose an irreconcilable challenge to a lasting peace solution between Israel and the Palestinians,” and urged the State Department to “exert diplomatic pressure” to stop them from moving forward.

Workers take a break before European Union officials visit the construction site for the Givat Hamatos neighborhood in East Jerusalem, November 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

Also on Wednesday, a Jerusalem municipal planning committee advanced thousands of housing units in several Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.

The plan includes 1,465 housing units for a new neighborhood in the land between the Jewish neighborhoods of Givat HaMatos and Har Homa, in an area left-wing groups say would make establishing a contiguous Palestinian capital in the city far more difficult.

Another 2,092 housing units were advanced in the Jewish neighborhood of French Hill, which also lies over the Green Line.

The committee’s approval is merely the first stage in the planning process. The proposal will be formally discussed at the Jerusalem District Planning Committee on January 17, 2022; if it passes there, the plan will go on to the “deposit” stage, at which point it will be far more difficult to suspend.

Jacob Magid and Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.

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