NGOs: Israel’s Development of E1 Zone Will Thwart Palestinian State

The construction of 3,500 settler homes in E1 zone between Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley is designed to thwart Palestinian state, architect Uri Reicher testified this week at the Higher Planning Council of the Israeli occupation Civil Administration hearing on the 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.

The E1 region northwest of Israel’s Ma’ale Adumin settlement in the occupied West Bank (Map: Peace Now)

“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 said. In his testimony, Reicher was representing Peace Now, Ir Amim and the Association of Environmental Justice in Israel who jointly filed an objection with the Higher Planning Council of the Civil Administration against construction plans on E1. The organizations have in parallel launched a campaign (along with the NGO, Mechazkim) calling on the public to sign a petition in support of the objection, and within a few days it had been signed by more than 1,500 persons.

According to Peace Now, “This plan is considered exceptionally lethal for the chances for peace and the two state solution as it cuts across the West Bank and prevents the development of the metropolitan area between Ramallah, East Jerusalem and Bethlehem.” There have been attempts to promote this plan since the 1990s, but due to the opposition in Israel itself and around the world it was not actively promoted by the government until former far-right Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered to submit it for approval in 2012. Subsequently, the plan was frozen due to widespread opposition, until Netanyahu began actively promoting it again on the eve of the February 2020 elections.

Israel has a responsibility under international law to equally provide for both populations, Uri Reicher told the Higher Planning Council, adding that the state’s High Court of Justice has upheld this idea of equitable treatment for the two populations. Halting Israeli development of E1 and transferring its use for Palestinians is consistent with international and domestic law, Reicher said, and concluded by maintaining that, barring the ceasing of its development, E1 will effectively become a new Israeli settlement in the heart of the occupied Palestinian West Bank.

Related: Download full English text of the objections to Israel’s development of E1 (13 pages)