maaleh adumim E1 248.88.
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Ma'aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel plans to lay a cornerstone on the controversial West Bank hilltop of E-1 on Monday to protest continued international pressure against construction in that unbuilt area of his city.
It's a "symbolic gesture," said Kashriel, who added that Monday's protest event would be "the first step of the fight for E-1 that speaks from the heart of the people."
Located just east Jerusalem, Ma'aleh Adumim, with a population of 33,800, is the third-largest West Bank settlement.
In spite of talk of a freeze in settlement construction, construction crews are working on an estimate 450 new apartments there. But once those are completed, the city has warned, they have no new permits to continue building.
Should additional permits be handed out, E-1 is the only remaining section of the city where new construction can take place, said Kashriel.
He views that area as a lifeline to the city's future, even as Palestinians have claimed that building there would harm the territorial contiguity of a future Palestinian state.
During former prime minister Ehud Olmert's tenure, Kashriel was so angry about the lack of support in the Kadima-led government for building in E-1 that he placed a modular home on its hilltop, and worked there for a week before removing it.
Monday's protest, however, would be the first time that Kashriel, a long-time member of the Likud's Central Committee, has organized a public protest against Netanyahu's policies.
Only last year, said Kashriel, when Netanyahu was the opposition leader, he came to the opening day of school in Ma'aleh Adumim and spoke with pupils of the need to build in E-1.
This year, Kashriel, to his surprise, has found himself plotting a campaign against the government's de-facto freeze of new building permits. But protest actions like Monday rally which is open to the public, strengthen Netanyahu's ability to stand firm against international pressure to freeze settlement activity, the mayor said.
Knesset Speaker MK Ruby Rivlin (Likud) and Shas Party leader and Interior Minister Eli Yishai have also publicly supported building in E-1.
Kashriel said Monday's rally will likely attract National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beiteinu), Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi) and Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon (Likud).
Kashriel said he hoped to show that there is "consensus that we have to build in E-1." People in Judea and Samaria voted for Netanyahu because they believed he would support construction, he added.
Since taking office, Netanyahu has not held any formal meetings with settler leaders. Last month, however, he did meet informally with four Likud settler leaders including Kashriel, Ariel Mayor Ran Nachman, Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shaul Goldstein and Beit El Council head Moshe Rosenbaum.
The settler Likud leaders had been in the middle of a meeting with the prime minister's director-general, Eyal Gabai, when Netanyahu entered.
Protocols of the meeting were obtained by Haaretz and published on its web site.
According to the protocol, Rosenbaum said that dealing with the government was like "talking to a wall." The settlers, he said, are disappointed and ready to do battle.
It was agreed that a meeting would be set up for Netanyahu and the settlement leaders, but to date no such meeting has taken place.
"I hope he will call us before it is too late," Goldstein told The Jerusalem Post.