CMEP Bulletin: What Does the E-1 Announcement Mean for a Two-State Solution?

CMEP Bulletin: What Does the E-1 Announcement Mean for a Two-State Solution?

Churches for Middle East Peace weekly news update

Background on E-1

Shortly after the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on November 29 to upgrade the Palestinian mission to a “non-member observer state,” Israel announced plans for more settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The government of Israel issued a call for companies to submit proposals for 3,000 new housing units in the West Bank while also advancing plans for 5,310 units in East Jerusalem and 3,426 in a controversial area called E-1. While every announcement comes with protest from the international community this one has many diplomats and experts saying that Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has gone too far. 

The uproar centers on the E-1 area. E-1 or East-1 refers to the stretch of land between Jerusalem’s eastern municipal boundary and the settlement Ma’ale Adumim that covers 4.6 square miles. The main artery between the northern and southern West Bank runs through the area.

E-1 is part of the West Bank. The Israeli government has never annexed it into Israel and has kept it under Israeli military rule since 1967. Plans for E-1 have existed since 1994 with the Israeli government and settlers eyeing the land for an expansion of Ma’ale Adumim. Many Israelis consider Ma’ale Adumim a suburb of Jerusalem since it is only a ten-minute drive from the city. However, it lies east of the 1967 lines and is therefore considered West Bank settlement.

Jerusalem lawyer and anti-settlement activist Daniel Seidemann says that before the announcement, the government has issued tenders for the construction of 2,366 housing units in 2012, more than twice the number built in the previous three years combined. With the flurry of building this year, why has the reaction to the E-1 announcement caused more outrage than usual?

To understand the impact building in E-1 will have on a two-state solution, one must look at a map. Connecting Ma’ale Adumim with Jerusalem divides the West Bank into two parts. It would make contiguity impossible by cutting off Bethlehem and Ramallah from East Jerusalem, the aspirational capital of a Palestinian state. It also bisects the quickest route between Ramallah and Bethlehem, a distance of only about 14 miles. This would force Palestinians to circumvent Ma’ale Adumim, making the trip significantly longer.

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