The Israeli construction plan called the E1 project threatens the two-state solution and the contiguity of a future Palestinian state .
Ma’ale Adumim is a suburb of Israel’s capital, barely three miles outside Jerusalem’s city limits, a ten-minute drive away. Ma’ale Adumim is not a recently constructed outpost on a hilltop; it was established in 1975 and is now the largest Jewish city in the territories, with a population of approximately 46,000. The community is popular because it is clean, safe, and close to where many residents work. Israel has long planned to fill in the empty gap between Jerusalem and this bedroom community -- referred to as the E1 project.
The E1 corridor is approximately 3,250 acres and is largely uninhabited state land on steep hills. According to the plan, a new neighborhood of Ma’ale would be constructed with approximately 3,500 housing units. The plan also includes tourist, industrial and commercial areas and a nature reserve. 276
Every Israeli prime minister since Yitzhak Rabin has supported the plan and, according to the Clinton parameters, Ma’ale was to be part of Israel in a final peace agreement. The Palestinians agreed to this as well. The area is also included within the route of the separation fence on the Israeli side.
Critics of the E1 plan complain that it would kill the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute by making it impossible for the Palestinians to have a contiguous state. This is untrue because the Palestinian state would be contiguous around the eastern side of the city.
The other complaint is that linking Ma’ale Adumim to Jerusalem would cut off east Jerusalem from a Palestinian state, but Israel has proposed constructing a four-lane underpass to guarantee free passage between the West Bank and the Arab sections of Jerusalem that would actually reduce the time for Palestinian drivers traveling in a north-south direction. In addition, “access to Jerusalem through Abu Dis, Eizariya, Hizma and Anata is not prevented by the proposed neighborhood, nor would it be precluded by a string of neighborhoods connecting Ma’aleh Adumim to Jerusalem.” 277
Curiously, none of the critics of E1, who express such concern for the contiguity of a future Palestinian state, are disturbed by the fact that the failure to complete the project would preclude Israel from having contiguous borders as Ma’ale Adumim would become an island in the middle of the Palestinian state. Incidentally, this one-sided concern about contiguity is also evident in discussions regarding linking the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, which are not contiguous either, and would require some rail or auto link that would break up the continuity of Israel in the Negev.
The hypocrisy toward the E1 project is further exemplified by the international silence over the illegal Palestinian Arab building in the area. The Palestinians want to prevent Israel from linking Ma’ale with Jerusalem by filling the area with their own homes and they also hope to surround Jewish neighborhoods built after 1967. If the Palestinians succeed, they can threaten Jerusalem from the east and block the city’s development while also threatening the Jerusalem-Jericho road, a strategically vital passage for the movement of troops and equipment through the Jordan Valley. The illegal construction has already reduced the area for building Israeli homes and narrowed the corridor to Jerusalem from about one mile to six-tenths of a mile.
According to the Oslo II agreement, Israel retained control over the area around E1 and therefore has the right to build in the area, but the Palestinians do not. Israel has built a police station and the infrastructure for completing construction in the area but has refrained from moving ahead on the project. In fact, every time a prime minister announces plans to begin work on E1, they mysteriously reverse course, usually within 24 hours, apparently after being threatened by the United States. This occurred in the most recent case when Prime Minister Netanyahu announced the project would move forward and then almost immediately backtracked after being condemned by the United States and many other Western nations.278
The two-state solution is not threatened by the E1 project; it is in danger from the continuing terrorism from Gaza and the refusal of Mahmoud Abbas to engage in peace negotiations. While settlement construction is controversial in Israel, there is broad consensus that Ma’ale Adumim will be part of Israel after any agreement with the Palestinians and that it should be linked to Jerusalem. After years of planning, the time to complete the E1 project is overdue and should no longer be held hostage to the specious complaints of the Palestinians and their supporters.
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