|Maaleh Adumim with sign 370.(Photo by: REUTERS)|
Council okays next stage of controversial E1 plan
By TOVAH LAZAROFF
Ignoring int'l pleas to halt project, council approves apartments in W. Bank, triggering start of 60-day period for filing of objections.
Israel turned a blind eye to international condemnation and, as promised, pushed
forward plans on Wednesday to build 3,500 homes in E1, a mostly empty area of
the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement.
After holding a discussion on the matter
and hearing from the Ma’aleh Adumim engineer, the Higher Planning Council of
Judea and Samaria deposited the plans.
The move opens the door to a
bureaucratic process that could allow for construction to start in one or two
The bureaucratic process itself can be concluded fairly quickly,
Ma’aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel said.
There is now a 60-day objection
period, after which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud
Barak must sign the plans, he said.
But in light of the political nature
of the project, Palestinians and left-wing Israeli groups will most likely file
objections, he said. Answering those objections takes time, and it is possible
that opponents of the project will turn to the High Court of Justice, he
Kashriel assumes it will take one to two years before he can build
in the 1,200- hectare (2,965-acre) tract of land located within his city’s
municipal boundaries, but across the highway from the rest of the community.
Since 2008, the headquarters of the Samaria and Judea police district has been
located in E1.
“I am very happy, the residents are very happy,” Kashriel said of the Higher Planning Council’s move. He heard the news when the
city engineer called him on his cellphone from the council meeting, as he sat in
his Ma’aleh Adumim office.
Kashriel has waited 18 years to deposit the
plans ever since then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin promised him he could build
there back in 1994.
“We thank the prime minister [Netanyahu] for his
courage and for safeguarding the nation’s interests,” Kashriel said.
the years, he has lobbied hard for permission to build in E1, including placing
a caravan temporarily on the site, to protest the continued governmental refusal
to authorize building plans.
At stake for Kashriel is the future of his
city of 36,000 people – E1 is the only remaining tract of land on which he can
It would also strengthen Israel’s hold on Ma’aleh Adumim and
neighboring east Jerusalem in any final-status agreement with the
Palestinians say E1 is critical for them because control of
it would strengthen their claim to east Jerusalem, which they want as their
If E1 were incorporated into a Palestinian state, it
would allow growth of east Jerusalem neighborhoods into the West Bank, creating
a continuous line of Palestinian development to nearby Jericho and down to the
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday
that the decision to deposit E1 plans crossed a red line and made a contiguous
Peace Now said it destroyed the possibility of a
two-state solution and opened “diplomatic war” with Israel’s best friends in the
“What is a small step for settlers, is a large
step forward toward total Israeli isolation in the world,” Peace Now
Meretz politicians visited the site on Wednesday to better
understand its geography.
Meretz Party chairwoman Zehava Gal-On said that
approving construction in E1 was akin to a madman standing on a
Gal-On said that she traveled with her faction to E1 to protest
Netanyahu’s “price tag policies,” in a reference to attacks on Palestinians and
their property by right-wing extremists.
“It’s in Israel’s interest to
have a Palestinian state. We should see it as an opportunity, not as a threat,”
Kashriel told The Jerusalem Post that objections to Jewish
construction in E1 had more to do with a united or divided Jerusalem than the
issue of Palestinian territorial contiguity.
Even with a built-up E1, the
Palestinian state could run from Ramallah to the Dead Sea, he said.
office is putting together promotional material in support of building in E1,
which it plans to send to ambassadors stationed in Israel as well as to Israeli
parliamentarians so they can better understand the issue.