Israeli building in E1 will thwart Palestinian state, NGOs tell IDF

'Israeli construction on E1 harms Palestine’s future growth potential and therefore closes the door to the possibility of a peace agreement,' architect Uri Reicher told the Civil Administration.

The E1 territory, located outside of Jerusalem and within the jurisdiction of the Ma'aleh Adumim settlement (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
The E1 territory, located outside of Jerusalem and within the jurisdiction of the Ma'aleh Adumim settlement
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)

The construction of nearly 3,500 settler homes in E1 is designed to thwart a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, architect Uri Reicher testified at a Civil Administration hearing on the contentious project.

“Israeli construction on E1 harms Palestine’s future growth potential and therefore closes the door to the possibility of a peace agreement,” Reicher wrote in a submission to the Civil Administration, parts of which he read out at the hearing.

“It could even be said that, in fact, the project has been advanced not out of urban planning considerations, but in order to achieve the political goal of thwarting any opportunity to reach a political agreement” between Israelis and Palestinians, he wrote.

Reicher represented three left-wing Israeli NGOs: Peace Now, Ir Amim and the Association of Environmental Justice in Israel.

He spoke on the second day of hearings on a large tract of land located just outside of Jerusalem and within the municipal boundaries of the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement.

The land sits on the opposite side of Route 1, from the existing built-up area of the settlement, which is formally recognized as a city and is the third-largest settlement in the West Bank.

Plans for the expansion of Ma’aleh Adumim were first put forward by former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, but have been frozen for long periods of time due to American and European pressure on Israel to freeze the project.

A representative of the US Embassy in Jerusalem was present at the hearing via Zoom. Plans for the project have been deposited and as a result, are now at an advanced stage.

Proponents of E1 have been blunt about the diplomatic importance of the project, arguing that its construction would help ensure a united Jerusalem and rejecting claims that it harms the viability of a Palestinian state.

During the hearing, Civil Administration representatives noted that the hearing was solely designed to take into account technical considerations and not political or diplomatic ones.

Reicher in his presentation said that it was impossible to separate the technical from the political, however.

Peace Now Executive Director Shaqued Morag and Meretz Party head Nitzan Horowitz on E1. (credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)Peace Now Executive Director Shaqued Morag and Meretz Party head Nitzan Horowitz on E1. (credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)

E1 IS a unique tract of land that encompasses 12,000 dunams (about 3,000 acres), Reicher said. It is more logical for that land to become part of east Jerusalem than Ma’aleh Adumim, he explained as he presented the Civil Administration with a map of the links between E1 and east Jerusalem.

E1 is critical to the development of east Jerusalem when it becomes part of a future Palestinian state, Reicher said, because it represents the only real option for substantive growth and development.

For the Palestinians E1 also sits in a central location linking east Jerusalem with the nearby Palestinian city of Jericho, he said, adding that within a wider circle, it also provides for a link with Ramallah and Bethlehem.

Bypass roads cannot resolve the problem; without E1, east Jerusalem will become an island within Israel, Reicher said.

When one looks to the future, Palestinian population growth in that area is expected to far exceed Israeli growth and thus there is a need to set aside territory to accommodate that increase.

Israel has a responsibility under international law to equally provide for both populations, the architect said, adding that Israel’s High Court of Justice has upheld this idea of equitable treatment.

Halting Israeli development of E1 and transferring its use for Palestinians is consistent with international and domestic law, Reicher said.

E1 might technically be part of Ma’aleh Adumim but it is more complex to physically link it with the built-up area of the city than to connect it to Jerusalem, he explained. The highway that runs between the two sections of the city makes it difficult to keep E1 part of Ma’aleh Adumim, he said.

Reicher concluded by saying that E1 will effectively become a new settlement, rather than an extension of the city.

Others who testified at the meeting also said that the plans were outdated, did not account for issues of climate change and that environmental studies had yet to be done.