3 ministers attend E-1 demonstration

Clashes erupt between left-wing and right-wing activists at symbolic cornerstone-laying ceremony.

E-1 cornerstone ceremony 248.88 (photo credit: Channel 10)
E-1 cornerstone ceremony 248.88
(photo credit: Channel 10)
Hundreds of people, including three government ministers, participated Monday in a symbolic cornerstone-laying ceremony in the E-1 area of Ma'aleh Adumim. Minister of Communications Moshe Kahlon (Likud), National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau (Israel Beiteinu) and Science Minister Daniel Herschkovitz (Habayit Hayehudi) were among the group that gathered in the area between Jerusalem and the outskirts of the West Bank city to show their support for building a new neighborhood there. The ceremony was led by Benny Kashriel, mayor of Ma'aleh Adumim. The cabinet ministers, in addition to several deputy ministers, attended the ceremony despite the fact that other coalition MKs had voiced strong opposition to the initiative to build 3,000 Jewish homes in E-1. The opposition within Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's coalition, as well as that of the US and European governments, reflects concerns that the construction could obstruct the free movement of Palestinians in the area. Construction in the area requires government approval, as the territory is part of State-owned land. "There is no doubt here that there is serious pressure from the US [against settlement-building]," noted MK Miri Regev (Likud), who was present at the event. "I have faith in the prime minister that the settlement blocks will not be affected by the negotiations," she told Army Radio, referring to a new round of meetings expected between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on the status of the West Bank. Representatives of Peace Now also showed up to the ceremony in a counter-protest. Brief clashes broke out between members of both groups during a speech delivered by Landau, but they were quickly dispersed by the police. No arrests have been reported. Meanwhile, opposition leader Tzipi Livni said that "Ma'aleh Adumim would be part of Israel in any future agreement," but repeated her assertion that the government lacked direction, citing the unilateral measures it was taking outside of a framework of a peace agreement which she said put Israel on a collision course with the US. "When we conducted negotiations over Ma'aleh Adumim it was clear [to the Americans] that we had a direction, that we would defend out vital interests, but want to reach an agreement," she told Channel 2. "The peace process must be resumed." She scoffed the West Bank construction approval issued Sunday night by Defense Minister Ehud Barak which is said to precede a settlement freeze, and said Labor was a "messed up party" that had always been "weak in its actions."