E-1 is back in the news, with a vengeance. In this document we provide all the information you need to know about this controversial settlement project, as well as answer questions you might have and refute the erroneous or deliberately misleading arguments that are being bandied about.
What is E-1?
E-1 is short for “East 1,” the administrative name given to the stretch of land northeast of Jerusalem, to the west of the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. When people talk about E-1 today, they are referring to a longstanding Israeli plan – never implemented – to build a massive new Israeli neighborhood in this area, along with hotels, an industrial area, and a regional police headquarters (the last one already having been constructed).
Is the E-1 area part of Israel or the West Bank?
E-1 is part of the West Bank. It was never annexed to Israel and since 1967 it has been under Israeli military law. Ma’ale Adumim is one of the largest settlements in the West Bank and is one of only four settlements in the West Bank classified by Israel as a “city.”
Due to its size and close proximity to Jerusalem, Ma’ale Adumim is viewed by many Israelis as a suburb or neighborhood of that city. However, Ma’ale Adumim is located in the West Bank and is therefore a settlement. To the extent that it is near Jerusalem, it is adjacent to East Jerusalem and its Palestinian neighborhoods, not West Jerusalem, although major infrastructure investment by Israel over the past decade has blurred this line somewhat.
Why is Israeli construction of E-1 a big deal?
Settlement construction in E-1 would, by design, block off the narrow undeveloped land corridor which runs east of Jerusalem and which is necessary for any meaningful future connection between the southern and the northern parts of the West Bank. It would thus for all practical purposes break the West Bank into two parts – north and south.
It would also sever access to East Jerusalem for Palestinians in the West Bank, and sever East Jerusalem from its West Bank hinterland to the north and east of the city. It would do so by It completing a block of settlements and related infrastructure stretching from Ma’ale Adumim to the city’s east, through Neve Yaacov and Pisgat Ze’ev to the north, and extending to Givat Ze’ev, to the northwest.
Both of these situations are antithetical to the achievement of a real, durable peace agreement and the establishment of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state.
Why do you say E-1 cuts the West Bank in half? Can’t the Palestinians go around or have a road through the area?
If E-1 were constructed Palestinians could, theoretically, travel between the northern and southern West Bank via a road – that at this time does not exist – through the Judean desert, looping around the Ma’ale Adumim bloc and the expanded area of Jerusalem whose outskirts would stretch nearly to Jericho. Similarly, there have been suggestions of a road for Palestinians running north-south between Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem, using overpasses and tunnels to bypass Israeli built-up areas (which already exist to some extent).
However, either of these arrangements, which would involve enormous expense and damage to the landscape, would create only “transportational connectivity” or “transportational continuity.” A future state of Palestine, in such a circumstance, would consist of distinct communities with no real connection except via sterile highways. Such a situation is different from “territorial contiguity,” which implies a continuous area in which Palestinian life – commerce, economy, education, health services, political activity, etc. – functions and flows normally, and hopefully flourishes, as required for Israel’s long-term security and regional stability. A solution based on access through a special road through E-1 would furthermore make even the “transportational connectivity” linking these parts of the Palestinian state subject to the goodwill of Israel, which would have the ability to cut the state in half by merely closing down the road.
Moreover, such arrangements assume that Israeli-Palestinian peace and a two-state solution are possible without East Jerusalem being contiguous with and part of a Palestinian state – an assumption that no serious analyst would support.
Won’t the E-1 area become part of Israel eventually, anyway?
Most Israelis insist that under any future peace agreement Ma’ale Adumim will become part of Israel. This was the case under the Clinton proposal and the Geneva Initiative (with a land swap to compensate the Palestinians for the territory). However, the mechanism to include it inside Israel is contentious, due to its location. Israeli supporters of E-1 argue that in order to keep and protect Ma’ale Adumim, it requires territorial contiguity between Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem. It is suggested that the alternative – connecting Ma’ale Adumim to Jerusalem via an “umbilical cord” (i.e., a road or narrow land corridor) – is prima facie unacceptable from an Israeli security perspective. This is the crux of the issue with E-1: the Israeli solution to connect Ma’ale Adumim to Jerusalem though construction in E-1 will sentence a future Palestinian state to precisely what Israel has defined as unacceptable from the perspective of its own interests: two distinct, divided areas, connected by an umbilical cord.
It is possible that, within the context of a negotiated agreement, some of these challenges could be surmounted via mutually agreed-upon mechanisms, including innovative transportation schemes and land-sharing or land-swap agreements. However, unilateral acts by Israel that would impose this reality on the Palestinians are antithetical to the development of a stable, viable Palestinian state, undermining the legitimacy of moderate, pro-peace Palestinian leaders and empowering radicals.
Regardless of who may end up in control of or with sovereignty over these areas under a future peace agreement, if Israel is serious about wanting to make peace with the Palestinians, the future of these areas must be left to negotiations and not determined by unilateral acts. Unilateral acts by Israel in this closely-watched and strategically critical geographic area will only further undermine President Abbas and the hopes for achieving peace and a two state solution. Such acts also publicly defy and embarrass the United States, waste goodwill towards Israel around the world, and pointlessly consume valuable Israeli political capital.
Many observers expect that under any future peace agreement Ma’ale Adumim will remain part of Israel, as was the case under the Clinton proposal and the Geneva Initiative (with a land swap to compensate the Palestinians for the territory); there is no similar consensus over the future of E-1.
How much land is included in E-1?
E-1 is 12,000 dunams in size – equivalent to 3,000 acres.
What’s on this land now?
In 2008, Israel moved the headquarters of the Israeli police for the West Bank to E-1, as part of a highly questionable deal in which the new police headquarters were financed by Jerusalem settler organizations, who in exchange obtained control of the former police headquarters compound, located in the East Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhood of Ras al Amud (and becoming a new settlement area in that neighborhood).
Significant infrastructure has been built in E-1 since 2005, including a major road that can serve a large amount of traffic, infrastructure for electricity and water, and leveling of ground as a preparation for the future neighborhood.
Otherwise, most of the E-1 area remains untouched. At the margins of the planned area of E-1 there is some Bedouin presence, and some are using the lands for grazing, and some are threatened to be displaced by the plan.
Who does the land in E-1 actually belong to?
The question of who owns the land in E-1 has to be addressed in both administrative terms and in terms of property rights. Administratively, Israel considers E-1 as an official part of Ma’ale Adumim; however, this is misleading, since the municipal area of Ma’ale Adumim (i.e., total land allocated to the settlement) is much larger than the actual constructed area of the settlement. Indeed, the municipal area of Ma’ale Adumim, comprising 53,000 dunams, is larger than that of Tel Aviv. Of this, only around 7120 dunams (1760 acres) are actual built-up area, plus another 2250 dunams (560 acres) in the industrial area known as Mishor Adumim. E-1’s inclusion in the Ma’ale Adumim municipal area is merely an administrative step and does not reflect the land’s actual use or the needs of the settlement.
During the 1980’s, Israel declared most, but not all, of the land in E-1 to be “state land,” i.e., land that is not owned by any individual and is thus the property of the state (although since E-1 is part of the West Bank, there are other legal issues about Israel’s right to develop the land for Israeli use). Significant portions of the land in E-1 remain privately owned by Palestinians. Consequently, planning relating to the area of E-1 resembles a slice of Swiss cheese, with plans for construction on “state land” and islands of Palestinian-owned land (the holes in the cheese) scattered throughout and left unplanned.
Isn’t E-1 necessary for the natural growth of Ma’ale Adumim?
The following are the official population figures for Ma’ale Adumim, 2000-2011
(source: Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics)
End of Year Population Actual Increase
2000 24,900 —
2001 25,800 +900
2002 26,500 +700
2003 27,259 +759
2004 28,923 +1664
2005 30,162 +1239
2006 31,754 +1592
2007 33,019 +1265
2008 33,821 +802
2009 34,324 +503
2010 35,673 +1349
2011 36,089 +386
The Israeli government has declared its intention to construct 3,500 housing unit in E-1 – sufficient to accommodate an increase of about 20,000 settlers in Ma’ale Adumim. As the table above shows, this number has nothing to do with the actual growth of the settlement’s population in recent years – a rate of growth which, because of immigration from outside of the settlement, is actually much higher than the so-called “natural growth” rate of the settlement (e.g., growth due to births, etc.).
What has been the policy of past Israeli and U.S. governments regarding E-1?
The policy of all U.S. governments – past and present – has been to oppose settlement construction activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. With respect to E-1, the U.S. has communicated to Israel its opposition to the plan, privately and publicly, on a number of occasions over the years. Successive U.S. administrations have understood that implementation of the plan would have a catastrophic effect on the prospects for Middle East peace. Successive Israeli Prime Ministers have, until now, respected these concerns and refrained from implementation of the plan.
Rabin/Clinton Era: In 1994, Yitzhak Rabin expanded the borders of Ma’ale Adumim significantly to include the area known as E-1. Rabin refrained from implementing any construction in the E-1 area between Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem, based on a quiet understanding with Clinton that Israel would not waive its claim to E-1 but would not, in the context of peace efforts, pursue construction there.
Netanyahu/Clinton Era: During the his first time in office as Prime Minister (1996-1999), Netanyahu attempted to expedite the E-1 Master Plan (a first statutory step toward implementation of the plan, which includes general land designations but is not specific enough to allow the issuance of building permits), along with establishing a Greater Jerusalem umbrella municipality which was to include Ma’ale Adumim. These efforts were limited to statutory planning and the Municipal Plan for E-1 was not formally approved. Clinton told Netanyahu that the U.S. would not accept Israeli construction in E-1. Netanyahu agreed to respect this position and took no further action on the plan.
Barak/Clinton Era: Barak expressed support for E-1 but refrained from any construction in the E-1 area, de facto abiding by the undertaking made by Rabin and respected by Netanyahu.
Sharon/Bush Era: During 2002, then-Minister of Defense Ben Eliezer signed the Master Plan for E-1 (expedited but not approved under Netanyahu) into law. Ben Eliezer subsequently undertook to the U.S. Administration not to implement the E-1 plan and indeed no further statutory planning was carried out and there was no construction in E-1during his tenure in office. In mid-2004, construction commenced on infrastructure in E-1. The work was carried out by the Ministry of Construction and was illegal: in the absence of a Specific Town Plan no permits could be or were issued to allow for this work. The work included the clearing of roads for major highways leading to the planned residential areas and site preparation for the planned police station (so that the police station in Ras Al Amud may be transferred to the settlers there, tripling their presence in the heart of that Palestinian neighborhood of East Jerusalem). President George W. Bush intervened and Sharon undertook not to build, without waiving Israeli claims to the area. He respected that undertaking for the remainder of his time in office. Only the plan for the police station and the infrastructure (without the whole neighborhood) was made in order, as a means of legalizing the construction that had already taken place and to allow completion of the police station.
Olmert/Bush: Olmert continued to respect Sharon’s undertaking to Bush and did not pursue construction in E-1.
Netanyahu/Obama, first term:Netanyahu reportedly assured President Obama that he would not act on E-1. That report is confirmed by the recent leak from the Israeli Prime Minister’s office to the effect that following the UN vote to upgrade the Palestinians’ status in the UN, the Netanyahu government’s undertakings not to build in E-1 are no longer considered relevant.
What is the state-of-play on E-1 today?
As of December 6, 2012, the situation is as follows:
On December 5th, the Civil Administration (an arm of the Israeli Ministry of Defense, which has absolute authority over the West Bank), convened the committee in charge of approving settlements, known as the West Bank Higher Planning Council. At that meeting, the Council approved the advancement of two construction plans in E-1, for a total of 3,426 housing units. The plans are Plan No. 420/4/10, for the construction of 2,176 housing units, and Plan No. 420/4/7, for 1,250 housing units). These are the same plans that were prepared in the past and approved for deposit in 2004, but as a result of pressure by President Bush, then-Prime Minister Sharon decided to take them off the agenda.
Under the law, a plan must be deposited for a 60-day “public review” period – publication of the plan in the press and in trade publications. This permits the plan to be scrutinized and, where the public has concerns, it is the period in which objections may be submitted. Once that period has elapsed, a hearing is called to address objections and, where objections are accepted, to either reject the plan in question or demand modifications be made to it. Once this step is completed and any objections are satisfactorily addressed, the plan may be signed into law, paving the way for the issuance of construction permits, the marketing of land, and construction tenders.
Normally, the timeframe in which a settlement plan proceeds from deposit for public review to construction takes 9-15 months. In this case, E-1 is clearly being fast-tracked for political reasons and could take less time, although given the requirements of law, the timeframe cannot be shortened by much. A worst-case estimate would put groundbreaking in E-1 a year from now; a more conservative estimate would put groundbreaking at closer to two years away. It should be noted that since so much of the infrastructure for a settlement in E-1 is already in place, if construction gets going at the site, it will proceed far more rapidly than under normal circumstances.
Isn’t all this fuss over the E-1 announcement overblown? They Netanyahu is just approving planning, not actual construction.
The fuss about the approval of E-1 planning is not overblown. Anyone who has followed Israeli settlement developments should have learned by: settlement planning equals settlement construction.
As Danny Seidemann explains:
Some Israel officials and right-wing pundits are brushing off criticism regarding E-1 by insisting that Israel is not pursuing construction, just planning. We have worked on these issues for more than twenty years, and our professional careers are littered with real settler homes that were initially “only plans.” Indeed, it has been the refrain of Israeli officials in the context of virtually every settlement approval in East Jerusalem for years. When approved, Israel asserts a plan is “only planning”; when implemented “it’s not new.” By now, anyone hearing this refrain should immediately understand: Israeli planning in settlements equals Israeli construction in settlements, sooner rather than later.
Let no one be confused: if E-1 is granted statutory approval, as is anticipated, all that will be required is for Netanyahu to have a “bad hair day” for the construction of E-1’s 3500 units to commence…
Can E-1 be stopped?
E-1 can be stopped by Prime Minister Netanyahu, if he wants to do so. The West Bank is under Israeli control, and literally ever step in the approval process of settlement construction requires the active or tacit approval of the government of Israel. This means that at any step along the way, the government can freeze a plan – including simply by refraining from putting it back on the agenda of the Planning Council following the review period. Stopping the plan, or continuing to move towards its implementation, is nothing more or less than a matter of political will for the prime minister of Israel. Previous prime ministers (including Netanyahu in his first time around in that role) have understood this and have acted to stop the plan. Netanyahu can easily to the same today, if he so chooses.
This document is based on a previous backgrounder drafted in 2005 by then-Peace Now Settlements Watch Director Dror Etkes, along with Danny Seidemann, and Lara Friedman. Updated info/analysis from Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran, Lara Friedman, and Danny Seidemann.