This past weekend, the media reported that Israel has decided to advance the planning of thousands of apartments in the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, as part of the E-1 plan, in the area connecting the settlement to Jerusalem. According to media accounts, this decision was reached following the UN General Assembly’s recognition of Palestine as a state with UN observer status.
The implementation of construction plans in E1 will create an urban block between Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem, exacerbate the isolation of East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and will divide the West Bank into two separate areas, north and south.
The establishment of settlements in occupied territory runs counter to international humanitarian law, which prohibits the transfer of people from the occupying state into the occupied area. It also prohibits any permanent changes in the occupied territory, with the exception of changes mandated by military needs or in order to benefit the local population. In addition, the establishment of Israeli settlements leads to numerous violations of Palestinians' human rights. The plan to expel Bedouin communities who reside in these areas is a further breach of international humanitarian law, which prohibits the forcible transfer of "protected persons," such as these communities, unless done for their own safety or for an urgent military need. Even then, it is permissible only on a temporary basis.
What is E1?
The E1 master plan (Plan No. 420/4) was approved in 1999. It covers approximately 12,000 dunams of land – most of which Israel declared as state land – of the approximately 48,000 dunams under the jurisdiction of Ma’ale Adumim. The plan includes mainly areas north of the Jerusalem-Jericho road (Route 1) but also some land south of it, near the junction of Route 1 and Route 417 and west of Route 417.
Control of the land designated as E1 was primarily accomplished by declaring the land state land, a step whose illegality was demonstrated in a comprehensive report by B’Tselem. The area of E1 includes enclaves of privately owned Palestinian land, totaling some 775 dunams. These lands were excluded from the area declared as state lands for legal reasons, and are not officially covered by the plan. Clearly, however, the reality on the ground created by the plan will severely limit the access for Palestinian landowners to their property.
In addition to plans for residential housing, the plan indicates areas for other uses such as tourism, commerce, regional services, a regional cemetery and roads. Two plans have already been approved in detail, enabling them to have building permits issued.
One of these plans designates approximately 1,354 dunams for the construction of a metropolitan employment and business center for the use of both Ma’ale Adumim and the municipality of Jerusalem. The plan, submitted by the Ministry of Industry and Trade and prepared by the firm of Reches-Eshkol, was approved in 2002 but has yet to be implemented.
The second plan designates approximately 179 dunams for the Judea and Samaria district police headquarters, and was approved in 2005. This plan has already been implemented, and the police headquarters operates there. As part of the development of the area for the implementation of the plan, additional infrastructure was put in place, including the paving of roads, the construction of supporting walls, traffic roundabouts and street lighting, costing a total of about NIS 200 million. There is no possible justification for development work on this scale if its only purpose is to allow access to the police headquarters. The reason underlying this extensive infrastructure appears to be the future development of the planned construction of a residential area near the police station.
Whom does the plan harm?
Implementation of the E1 plan will have far-reaching consequences and will interrupt the contiguity of the southern and northern West Bank. Although all settlements are designated as closed military zones to which Palestinians cannot enter without special permits, this order is generally enforced only for the built-up areas. Building new residential neighborhoods north of Route 1 and developing infrastructure west of Route 417, which connects with Route 1, will transform these routes into local roads which run through the continuous built-up area of Ma’ale Adumim, thereby nullifying the regional function they now fulfill for Palestinians and either partially or completely denying access to Palestinians. Moreover, the northeast section of Plan 420/4 also includes part of Route 437, which is currently the sole access road for Palestinians for travel from the northern part of the West Bank (the Ramallah area) to the southern West Bank. Full implementation of Plan 420/4 will place these roads within the continuous built-up area of the settlement, and Palestinians will almost certainly lose access as a result.
The construction in E1 will further increase the forced isolation between the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It will enclose East Jerusalem from the east, connect to the Israeli neighborhoods built north of Jerusalem's Old City, and create a physical and functional barrier between East Jerusalem and the Palestinian population in adjacent West Bank communities for which the city serves as the main metropolitan and religious center.
Implementation of the plan will also harm the Palestinian Bedouin communities living in the region. At the end of 2011, the Israeli Civil Administration announced its intention to expel the 27,000 Bedouins living in area C localities throughout the West Bank. In its first phase, this plan was slated for implementation in January 2012, with the Civil Administration planning the forcible transfer of some twenty Bedouin communities – approximately 2,300 people – about half of whom live in E1 – from the area of Ma’ale Adumim and adjoining settlements.
These communities have been living in the region for decades in what are termed "unrecognized" villages. Demolition orders have been issued over the years for most of the buildings in these communities. None of the communities are linked to the power grid and only about half are connected to running water. They receive no basic services such as health care or education. The residents pursue a traditional way of life based on shepherding, even though their access to pastures and markets is limited.
Originally the Civil Administration had planned to move these communities to a site near the Abu Dis garbage dump, the main waste disposal site for Jerusalem. In the early 1990s, the Jahalin Bedouin tribe was relocated to this area to enable expansion of Ma’ale Adumim. However, following a High Court petition against that decision and broad international protests, the Civil Administration announced that it was withdrawing the plan and promised that the process of permanent resettlement for these communities would proceed only after consultation with the communities themselves and after making a risk assessment and environmental impact study on residence near the waste disposal site.