Ignoring international pleas to halt E1 construction plans, the Higher Planning Council of Judea and Samaria is scheduled to debate the controversial project for 3,500 apartments in an un-built area of the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement.

European countries, the US, Australia and Brazil have harshly criticized Israel’s announcement Friday that it would advance building plans for an area of the West Bank which Palestinians believe is essential for their state.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, however, has said that building in E1 is the appropriate response to the United Nations General Assembly decision last week to upgrade the Palestinians’ status there to non-member observer state.

Ma’aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel told The Jerusalem Post that he has already handed detailed plans for E1 to the council in advance of Wednesday’s debate.

The council has to decide if it wants to deposit the plans, after which there is a 60-day period for objections.

If everything moves forward according to schedule, it could take up to two years before cranes begin clearing out foundations on the sandy hilltop dotted with a few olive groves and a police station. It is located just outside of Jerusalem on the way to the Dead Sea.

A master plan for the 12,000 dunam site was approved in 1999. But a more detailed building plan must now be authorized before construction can begin.

There is, however, an already approved plan for a commercial center, which according to Peace Now and B’Tselem could be built now.

Kashriel is hopeful that the bureaucratic process will move swiftly and allow construction to begin within a year. He has waited 18 years for that to happen, since former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin first promised him in 1994 that he could expand his city by building there.

Since then, every prime minister has promised Kashriel they would authorize E1 construction plans, but have in the end broken their pledge and bowed to international pressure not to build.

Palestinians have explained that construction there would link Ma’aleh Adumim to Jerusalem and make it impossible for them to have a contiguous state.

Hagit Ofran of Peace Now, who plans to lead a Meretz delegation to the site on Wednesday, said that building in E1, “might destroy the two-state solution.” She added, “the government of Israel is not punishing the Palestinians by building there, they are punishing Israel by preventing the possibility for peace.”

Kashriel has insisted that building in E1 does not cut the territorial integrity of the Palestinian state. What it does, he said, is provide a lifeline to his city, which has no other land on which to expand.

Habayit Hayehudi Party head Naftali Bennett, who toured E1 on Tuesday, said that E1 was an essential Israeli link between Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea.

He added that it would also provide affordable homes for thousands of young couples and help eliminate the Jerusalem’s housing shortage.

Construction in E1, Bennett said, strengthens the metropolitan Jerusalem area. He noted that building in E1 would place Ma’aleh Adumim’s built-up municipal line within 50 meters of the Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus.

Building up E1 should not be viewed as a punitive measure, but as an essential right, Bennett said. He also called on Netanyahu to rescind his support for a Palestinian state.

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