Ma'aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel pointing in the direction of E1.
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
A Palestinian state can thrive without the E1 territory, but the West Bank city of Ma’aleh Adumim cannot, its mayor, Benny Kashriel, said on Wednesday.
He spoke in response to a report the EU had included his city of 37,000 residents in a list of five redline areas, critical to the survival of a Palestinian state.
“E1 is a redline for us, not the Palestinian Authority,” said Kashriel.
Since 1994, he has tried to build on the empty hilltops of E1, which fall within Ma’aleh Adumim’s jurisdiction.
Every prime minister since Yitzhak Rabin has promised Kashriel that he can move forward with plans to construct 3,500 units and then reneged on the pledge in the face of international pressure against it, he said.
“The White house is preventing us from building in E1,” Kashriel said.
Palestinians have insisted that Israeli construction in E1 would destroy the territorial contiguity of their state, a notion Kashriel branded as “ridiculous.”
He noted that Palestinians would be able to develop land from Ramallah down to Jericho even if E1 remained part of his city.
“They have 17 kilometers between us and the Dead Sea,” Kashriel said.
But if E1 became part of a Palestinian state, his settlement would be an island within it, Kashriel said, adding that the development of E1 helps connect that territory with Jerusalem Ma’aleh Adumim has almost used up its development land and E1 is the sole place that remains for large-scale growth, Kashriel said.
“I also want to build in E1,” he said.
He charged that the EU’s concern was not for a future Palestinian state but for domestic political calm, given the growing voting power of Muslim citizens living on the Continent.
The European and American diplomats are “sticking their heads in the sand” when it comes to E1, Kashriel said.
Part of his job in the last years has been to sway the international community that his city, including E1, should be part of Israel’s final borders.
Last week he hosted a delegation of visiting international parliamentarians, who were in Israel through the Israel Allies Foundation.
He showed them the Mishor Adumim industrial park, where Israelis and Palestinians work together, and took them to an overlook to view the E1 territory.
He joked that his city, which was small by international standards, was one of the most famous places in the world.
Top diplomats and officials have all been here, he said.
“US President Barack Obama knows more about this city than a comparable one in Connecticut,” Kashriel said.