Ma’aleh Adumim must be linked to Jerusalem, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the cabinet Sunday as he thanked the police and the IDF for their rapid evacuation of Palestinian activists from E1, an unbuilt area of the West Bank settlement.

“We will not allow anyone to harm the contiguity between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim,” he said.

Netanyahu issued his strong statement in support of including Ma’aleh Adumim within Israel’s final borders in response to a new strategy by Palestinians to assert their claim for sovereignty over the same area.

On Friday, activists under the auspices of the Palestinian NGO the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee ascended to an E1 hilltop, located just outside Jerusalem.

Border Police prepare to evacuate Palestinian E1 outpost [Photo: Ammar Awad / Reuters]

Some 250 Palestinians erected over 20 large white tents to protest Netanyahu’s November 30 decision to advance plans to build 3,500 Jewish homes there.

Netanyahu has said that E1 and Ma’aleh Adumim are critical to preserving Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.

Palestinians have also claimed that their territorial contiguity from Ma’aleh Adumim to east Jerusalem is vital to the viability of their future state.

Palestinian activists called their newly created outpost “Bab Alshams” (Gate of the Sun).

On Saturday night, Netanyahu personally intervened to ensure that security forces – some 500 Border Police officers with help from the IDF – evicted the Palestinians from the hilltop.

“As soon as I was updated on the Palestinian gathering I ordered its immediate evacuation, and it was indeed carried out last night in the best possible manner,” Netanyahu told the cabinet.

In an interview he gave earlier in the day to Army Radio, however, Netanyahu cautioned that it would take time before Jewish building actually occurred on E1.

Map of Jerusalem and the West Bank showing the Israeli settlements in the area, including the E-1 zone where Israel plans to build thousands of settler homes.

“It is a gradual process. It won’t happen immediately. It will take time,” Netanyahu said. “Everything depends on our bureaucracy with construction and design.”

But he promised that there would be building there.

Ma’aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel, however, continued to criticize Netanyahu, charging that he was holding up the procedure under which plans for E1 needed to be redeposited with the Higher Planning Council of Judea and Samaria.

Kashriel, who is a longtime member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, added that he was hopeful the prime minister would ensure that the plans were redeposited before the election.

He explained that while the E1 plan had been deposited last month, they were returned to the city for corrections.

They now need Netanyahu’s approval before they can be returned to the council.

The Prime Minister’s Office said there was no change in Netanyahu’s decision to advance E1 plans, and that he was committed to doing so.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Sunday that what happened on E1 was intolerable.

“It shows that the Israeli government is not interested in a two-state solution,” Erekat said.

“Israel must chose between settlements and peace,” he continued. “Today once again they have reaffirmed that they have chosen settlements over peace.”

Abir Kopty, a spokeswoman for the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, said that six people had been injured during the eviction, which took place from 2 to 4 a.m. on Sunday.

In some cases police punched them in the face, Kopty said. She provided the press with photographs of the injured activists, showing bloody noses and bruises.

“Press were also attacked and prevented from documenting the events,” she said.

Channel 10 reporter Roy Sharon, on the London and Kirshenbaum program on Sunday evening, showed on camera how security officials had barred his entry to the site, even as international media were on the hilltop.

He added that other Israeli reporters had the same experience.

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch told the cabinet that the evacuation of 95 Palestinians, including women and children, as well as 20 to 30 journalists, went smoothly and without the use of force.

“The [Israel Police] forces went up to the site without demonstration-dispersal means and ordered the Palestinians to leave the area. Some left voluntarily; others required our assistance to be evacuated,” he said.

“The evacuation was carried out without injuries,” he continued.

“All were put on vehicles and evacuated to Kalandia, where they were handed over to the Palestinian Authority. There is now a force guarding the site, including the tents. As soon as we receive an additional order from the Supreme Court – because the issue is currently under discussion – we will continue, of course, to evacuate the tents, should such an order be received.”

Initially, upon construction of the tents on Friday, the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria issued demolition orders.

Attorney Tawfiq Jabareen asked the High Court of Justice for a restraining order on behalf of the activists, claiming that the land on which the tents had been erected was private Palestinian property, belonging in part to the east Jerusalem neighborhood of A-Tur.

Judge Neal Hendel issued a six-day restraining order against demolishing the tents unless there was an emergency security reason.

On Saturday evening, on orders from Netanyahu, the IDF declared the area a closed military zone.

Close to midnight, the state also informed the court that it planned to evict the Palestinian activists, noting that the injunction’s wording allowed them to do so.

It provided the court with a secret opinion in a sealed envelope, which it said showed an urgent security need to evacuate the activists as well as the tents. It urged that this needed to be done to prevent serious harm to public order.

It also argued that many of the tents were erected on state land, but it did not demolish them so as to allow the court to investigate the matter.

The Ma’aleh Adumim Municipality plans to appeal to the High Court of Justice on Monday to take down the tents. The state is also expected to ask the court to allow their immediate removal.

Ben Hartman and Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.

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