Protecting the Contiguity of Israel: The E-1 Area

, May 24, 2009

Vol. 9, No. 1   24 May 2009

  • The E-1 area is a part of the Israeli city of Maale Adumim, located immediately adjacent to Jerusalem. There is an E-1 construction plan that was devised in order to link Maale Adumim and its 36,000 residents to Jerusalem. Every Israeli prime minister since Yitzhak Rabin has supported the plan. The E-1 site covers an area of largely uninhabited, state-owned land.
  • Without control of the E-1 area, Israel is apprehensive about a Palestinian belt of construction that will threaten Jerusalem from the east, block the city’s development eastward, and undermine Israel’s control of the Jerusalem-Jericho road. This major artery is of paramount strategic importance for Israel in order to transport troops and equipment eastward and northward via the Jordan Rift Valley in time of war.
  • Contrary to reports, the completion of E-1 would not cut the West Bank in half and undermine Palestinian contiguity. Israel has planned a new road that would allow Palestinian traffic coming from the south to pass eastward of Maale Adumim and continue northward to connect with the cities in the northern West Bank. This Palestinian bypass road would actually reduce the time for Palestinian drivers traveling in a north-south direction who would encounter no Israeli roadblocks.
  • The main threat to Israel’s future contiguity comes from encroachments on E-1 made by illegal Palestinian construction. Israeli and Palestinian construction in the West Bank has been governed by the legal terms of the Oslo II Interim Agreement from September 28, 1995. The area around E-1 is within Area C, where, according to Oslo II, Israel retained the powers of zoning and planning. As a result, much of the recently completed Palestinian construction there is illegal. In contrast, none of the Oslo Agreements prohibited Israeli settlement activity, though Israel undertook unilateral limitations upon itself in this area in recent years.
  • Israeli construction of E-1 will not undermine Palestinian contiguity, but were Israel to lose control of E-1, the contiguity of Israel would be severely compromised.

Linking the City of Maale Adumim to Jerusalem

The site called E-1(East 1) is an area immediately adjacent to Jerusalem to the east, which covers an area of 12,000 dunams of largely uninhabited and mostly state-owned land. It is within the municipal boundary of the Israeli city of Maale Adumim. The Israel Ministry of Housing, which devised the E-1 construction plan, sought to develop the area in order to link Maale Adumim and its 36,000 residents to Jerusalem.

Every Israeli prime minister since Yitzhak Rabin has supported the plan to create Israeli urban contiguity between Maale Adumim and Jerusalem. The centerpiece of the E-1 program involves the construction of 3,500 housing units, a commercial area, and a hotel zone.

The plan is a subject of bitter international controversy, with the Palestinians claiming that it would prevent sovereign Palestinian contiguity between the northern and southern areas of the West Bank. The United States has supported the Palestinian position and has sought to block Israeli construction at the site, pending a final peace agreement.

The Israeli interest, one that tends to be ignored by the international community, is to bring E-1 to fruition by establishing contiguity between Jerusalem in the west and Maale Adumim as well as the approaches to the Dead Sea in the east, as part of a security belt of Jewish communities surrounding Israel’s capital. Without control of the E-1 area, Israel is apprehensive about a Palestinian belt of construction that will threaten Jerusalem from the east, block the city’s development eastward, and undermine Israel’s control of the Jerusalem-Jericho road. This major artery is of paramount strategic importance for Israel in order to transport troops and equipment eastward and northward via the Jordan Rift Valley in time of war, and this road is already subject to growing pressure from unchecked Palestinian building.

E-1: A Consensus Issue in Israel

An almost total consensus prevails in Israel regarding the need to connect Maale Adumim to Jerusalem via construction in E-1. Yet, aside from building the police headquarters of the Judea and Samaria District in the area, no further construction has occurred due to American opposition.1

The vast amount of time that has elapsed since the first stages of the plan were approved (13 years ago) has led to an erosion of the area’s size as wandering Bedouin tribes and illegal Palestinian construction have reduced the area available for building. These phenomena have also narrowed the corridor to Jerusalem from about two kilometers to the width of a single kilometer – an opening that is constricting all the time.

Contrary to many reports, the completion of E-1 construction would not cut the West Bank in half and undermine Palestinian contiguity. Israel has planned a new road that would allow Palestinian traffic coming from the south to pass eastward of Maale Adumim and continue northward to connect with the cities in the northern West Bank. This Palestinian bypass road would actually reduce the time for Palestinian drivers traveling in a north-south direction. They would not have to stop at roadblocks as they came into Israeli territory and would be driving on a multi-lane highway.

Establishing a Viable Jerusalem

With a view toward consolidating Jerusalem’s status as the capital of Israel, successive Israeli governments planned and built a chain of neighborhoods and satellite towns around the city. Maale Adumim to the east, Givat Zeev to the north, and Efrat in the Etzion Bloc to the south were all established back in 1982. Beitar, southwest of Jerusalem, was established in 1990. Surrounding these satellite towns are dozens of additional communities. Israel views these satellite towns as part of a single Jerusalem metropolitan area.2 All Israeli governments have conceived this settlement bloc, akin to the other major settlement blocs established in the West Bank relatively close to the “green line,” as destined to remain within the area of the State of Israel and to be annexed to it in the framework of a permanent peace agreement.3

On April 14, 2004, U.S. President George W. Bush sent a letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in this vein. In the letter, Bush declared that the U.S. position was that in any final Israeli-Palestinian arrangement, the demographic reality that was created on the ground since the Six-Day War should be taken into account, and that Israel could not be expected to withdraw totally from all areas of the West Bank.4 Sharon viewed the letter from President Bush as an Israeli achievement that derived from the decision by his government to approve the Gaza-Northern Samaria disengagement plan.

The route of the West Bank separation fence was plotted on the basis of the principle of eventually incorporating the major settlement blocs within Israel. Some 220,000 of the 290,000 settlers reside within these major settlement blocs. In general, Israel’s High Court of Justice has upheld the principle of including the settlement blocs west of the security fence.

The City of Maale Adumim5

Maale Adumim was established by a decision of the government of Israel in 1977. The first residents arrived in 1982 and it became a city in 1991. Its current 36,000 residents are expected to grow to about 50,000 when the construction of the new Nofei Sela neighborhood is completed – where people are already moving in.

Maale Adumim is located at the edge of the Judean Desert about 7 km. east of Jerusalem on the Jerusalem-Jericho Road and it is close to Jerusalem’s northern neighborhoods of Pisgat Zeev, French Hill, and Ramat Eshkol. The city is known for its high quality of life, with well developed educational, cultural, and recreational facilities. The city’s municipal plan envisions a population of 70,000 residents by the year 2020.

The E-1 Plan

During the government of Yitzhak Shamir in 1991, Defense Minister Moshe Arens signed an order transferring part of the area currently known as E-1 to the Maale Adumim local council.6 In January 1994, the Higher Planning Council of Judea and Samaria’s Subcommittee for Settlement tabled a new plan that expanded the municipal plan for Maale Adumim and, in effect, constituted the basis for the future E-1 plan on an area of 12,000 dunams.7 Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin instructed Housing Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer to begin planning a neighborhood at the location. From then on, planning and authorization procedures for the E-1 neighborhood were promoted but were never totally completed, given the diplomatic constraints.

Most of the land in E-1 is not suitable for construction due to topographical considerations (steep hills). As a result, much of E-1 is intended to be a nature reserve. On its western side, near Jerusalem, there is a plan for residential housing. This neighborhood, named “Mevasseret Adumim” by municipal leaders in Maale Adumim, is to comprise 3,500 housing units in three sub-sections. E-1 is also to include the now-completed police headquarters of the Judea and Samaria district, as well as tourism, hotel, industrial, and commercial areas.8

The boundaries of the plan abut the edge of Jerusalem’s municipal boundary. To the southeast it is bounded by Highway 1 and the neighborhoods of Azariya, Abu Dis, and the encampment of the Bedouin Jahalin tribe. To the west is Issawiya and the neighborhoods of Anata and A-Zaim. To the north is Road 437, in the area of the Hizma checkpoint.9

The commercial and industrial areas are intended to serve all of the populations in the Jerusalem region, and provide thousands of jobs for both Israelis and Palestinians.10 The route of the separation fence in the Jerusalem perimeter includes the area of E-1 on the Israeli side.11

U.S. Policy

The housing plan and other construction in E-1 has been delayed due to American opposition. In an interview in the Jerusalem Post in September 2005, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert confirmed that Israel had obligated itself to the Bush administration not to build between Maale Adumim and Jerusalem, saying: “The State of Israel committed itself to freeze construction.” Olmert emphasized, however, that this did not mean the end of the program.12

The U.S. has opposed settlement activity in principle, not on legal grounds but because it could pre-judge the outcome of future negotiations. In implementing its policy, Washington has drawn distinctions between different types of construction and their location. For example, the April 30, 2003 Roadmap for Peace calls on Israel “to freeze all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements).”

But in September 2004, Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage noted: “If you have settlements that already exist and you put more people into them but don’t expand the physical, sort of, the area – that might be one thing.”13 In other words, Armitage was suggesting that the freeze on settlements meant a freeze on expanding the territorial limits of a settlement in order to absorb more people.

Since E-1 would not constitute a new Israeli settlement – it is part of Maale Adumim – it presents a special case: it is beyond the last building and the line of construction in Maale Adumim, but it is within its municipal borders.

Maale Adumim and E-1: The Heart of the Israeli Consensus

In a Knesset discussion on October 5, 1994, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin declared: “United Jerusalem would also encompass Maale Adumim as well as Givat Zeev as the capital of Israel under Israeli sovereignty.” Six months previously, in April, Rabin handed over the annexation documents of the E-1 area to Maale Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel.14 On March 13, 1996, Prime Minister Shimon Peres reaffirmed the government’s position that Israel will demand applying Israeli sovereignty over Maale Adumim in the framework of a permanent peace agreement.15

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made it clear in April 2005 that “E-1 is a 10-year plan, and the intention is to continue it.”16 Shaul Mofaz, the defense minister in the Sharon government, stated during a tour that he conducted in E-1 that he stood behind the plan to create Jewish contiguity between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim.17 In an information CD published by the Maale Adumim municipality,18 major figures were documented as they made declarations of faith to Maale Adumim and E-1:

  • Ehud Barak (currently defense minister and Labor party chair): “It is compulsory to translate into practice our ownership over the E-1 corridor. Without a readiness to build a contiguity that will connect Mount Scopus to Maale Adumim – Maale Adumim is in danger. If we do not embark immediately upon political action, in establishing plain facts, we are liable to lose Maale Adumim.”
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “We want to create a contiguity of greater Jerusalem from west to east, the Palestinians want to halt the contiguity by building from north to south….They want to choke Jerusalem on one hand and want to detach it from Maale Adumim on the other hand. We must overcome them and build E-1.”
  • Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud): “The E-1 plan is an objective that we will never forgo….If Yitzhak Rabin were still alive he would have issued an uncompromising directive to carry out E-1.”

Even old peace plans that spoke of the division of Jerusalem envisioned linking Maale Adumim and Jerusalem. According to a document of understandings between former minister Yossi Beilin and Mahmoud Abbas from the mid-1990s, while some Jerusalem Arab neighborhoods were to be transferred to a future Palestinian state, Israel was to annex the Jewish communities around Jerusalem, such as Maale Adumim, Givat Zeev, Beitar, and Efrat. According to the Clinton outline for partitioning Jerusalem that arose in the talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority at Camp David in 2000, Israel was to be compensated for partitioning the city by annexing communities such as Maale Adumim.

A similar formulation was expressed by former Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni during a tour she conducted in the E-1 area together with Maale Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel in May 2008.19 However, it is hard to understand how such a plan would contribute to Jerusalem’s security if additional Arab neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem were allowed to constitute a barrier between the capital and Maale Adumim, while the two cities would be linked only via a narrow corridor.20

The Reality – The Palestinians Are Building Illegally to Block Israeli Contiguity

The main threat to Israel’s future contiguity comes from encroachments on E-1 made by illegal Palestinian construction. Israeli and Palestinian construction in the West Bank has been governed by the legal terms of the Oslo II Interim Agreement from September 28, 1995. Oslo II divided the West Bank into three different jurisdictions: Areas A, B, and C. In Area C, according to Oslo II, Israel retained the powers of zoning and planning (Annex III, Protocol Concerning Civil Affairs, Article 27). The area around E-1 is within Area C and much of the recently completed Palestinian construction there did not receive Israeli approval and, as a result, is illegal. In contrast, none of the Oslo Agreements prohibited Israeli settlement activity, which was considered an issue for permanent status negotiations in the future. Despite the absence of an Israeli settlement freeze, Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo II Interim Agreement, which covered the West Bank, nonetheless.

Up to now, Israel itself has not built the E-1 neighborhood, except for the police station and a number of roads. In the area of the plan, spreading illegal Arab construction is discernible, particularly from the direction of A-Zaim. Three major clusters of illegal construction adjacent to E-1 are whittling away its area:21

  • From the direction of A-Zaim, between the years 2002-2007, 21 six-story (and taller) apartment buildings were built as well as 48 one- or two-story structures. The houses were built without permits both on state land and on private land. This construction causes damage to the access corridor between Maale Adumim and Jerusalem.
  • On the main ridge of E-1 from A-Zaim in a southeast direction, 43 illegal structures have been built by Bedouin including tents and tin shacks, enclosures, and goat pens. This cluster is located in the vicinity of the water reservoir that supplies water to Maale Adumim.
  • Around the Adumim fortress are 11 buildings without permits and near the village of Anata there are 9 buildings without permits.

While this construction has occurred in Area C, under Israeli civil control, the Civil Administration has not asserted control over the phenomenon. Security bodies warn that if Israel does not take significant measures to prevent the Palestinian takeover of this land, in the future it will not be possible to realize the E-1 plan, particularly in the industrial and commercial area that abuts Anata. Security officials estimate that part of the Bedouin migration to the area of E-1 stems from their apprehension of being left outside the separation fence.

The Palestinian Aim to Block E-1

The Palestinians, for their part, do not conceal their aspiration to prevent Israeli construction in E-1. Faisal Husseini, a Palestinian leader who died in 2001, said that building without permits in the Jerusalem area was one of the Palestinians’ weapons in the struggle against Israel.22 Mohammed Nahal, an expert on urban planning in the “Institute of Arab Studies” that operated in Orient House, drew up a plan in 1993 to construct three Arab cities around Jerusalem in order to surround the Jewish neighborhoods that were built after 1967.23 E-1, from the Israeli perspective, is almost the sole obstacle to the realization of the objective implicit in Nahal’s program.

On the ground there is a discernible Palestinian aim to link up Arab eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods to adjacent neighborhoods and towns in the West Bank. During the period of the Barak government, the Palestinians formally requested that the region of E-1 be transferred to them as Area B (where they enjoy full civilian control), but Barak refused.24

Who Will Win the Contest for Contiguity?

Contiguity of Israeli construction between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim will ostensibly create a barrier between Palestinian areas south of Jerusalem and areas of Palestinian settlement to the north. By contrast, if the area of E-1 passes into Palestinian hands and/or Palestinian construction there intensifies, this will detach the city of Maale Adumim from Jerusalem, and Israel’s capital will once again find itself at the end of a corridor with no other exit, becoming once again an outlying frontier city in an economic, planning and security sense as it was before 1967.25 The construction of E-1 will make the difference between Jewish contiguity from west to east and Palestinian contiguity from north to south, while the lack of construction in E-1 is tilting the decision in the direction of Palestinian contiguity at Israel’s expense.

The Palestinian Contiguity Road

On October 24, 2007, Israel expropriated 1,102 dunams for the purpose of paving a “Texture of Life” road for Palestinian use.26 Most of the land expropriated was state land and only 225 dunams were private land. The road was intended to allow transportation contiguity from the Ramallah region north of Jerusalem to the Bethlehem region to the south.

One section of the road from the Hizma region, bypassing Anata from the east and continuing southward to the A-Zaim checkpoint, has already been paved, with Israel investing nearly NIS 300 million in its construction. The Palestinian road passes through a tunnel under the Jerusalem-Maale Adumim road. In this way, the Palestinians would enjoy transportation contiguity without cutting the link between Maale Adumim and Jerusalem. However, the final section of the road has not yet been paved, apparently due to budgetary considerations.

Conclusions

The realization of the E-1 plan is a vital Israeli interest. Delay in carrying out the plan jeopardizes its actual realization because of illegal Palestinian construction in the area and the penetration of Bedouin encampments. The failure to realize this plan will almost certainly create Palestinian contiguity to the east of Jerusalem that will separate it from the city of Maale Adumim and return Jerusalem to the status of an outlying frontier city.

Israel must explain to the U.S. administration that the E-1 plan is vital to its interests and insist on carrying it out without connection to a final status arrangement, relying on the Bush letter to Sharon from 2004.

A similar situation occurred at the end of the 1990s over the construction of a Jewish neighborhood in Har Homa, within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. Israel insisted on carrying out the program because, in its evaluation, a lack of Jewish construction would sooner or later invite Palestinian construction that would drive a wedge between the Jewish neighborhoods of Gilo and Armon Hanetziv. Israel built the Har Homa neighborhood despite American opposition, and the U.S. reconciled itself in the end to the Israeli position, even if it did not agree with it.

If and when a Palestinian state should arise, Palestinian contiguity between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank can take place through the completion of the planned contiguity road. Israeli construction of E-1 will not interfere with Palestinian contiguity, but if Israel were to lose control of E-1, due to illegal Palestinian construction, then the contiguity of Israel would be severely compromised.

 *     *     *

Notes

1. American opposition was voiced on many occasions. See, for example, the protests by the State Department and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, “Sharon: We Will Continue with the Plan to Link Jerusalem to Maale Adumim,” Ha’aretz, April 5, 2005.

2. For details about this concept, see the report: “Metropolitan Jerusalem, a Master and Development Plan,” prepared for the Ministries of Interior, Housing, the Israel Lands Development Authority, and the Jerusalem Municipality, 1994. The research team was headed by Shmarya Cohen and Adam Mazor in collaboration with the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies. See also Nadav Shragai, Jerusalem: The Dangers of Partition, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2008.

3. The second Rabin government and the first Netanyahu government also adopted decisions concerning the establishment of a joint super-municipality for the entire region, but these decisions were never put into practice, both due to American pressure, as well as internal opposition pertaining to a dispute over prerogatives.

4. “The Bush Letter: Israel Will Not Return to the Green Line. The Refugees Will Not Return to Israel,” Ha’aretz, April 15, 2004.

5. Background material on Maale Adumim is taken from the publication by the Maale Adumim municipality, “An Urban Profile,” November 2006, as well as a publication on the city by the Maale Adumim municipality from June 2007.

6.  Ordinances Regarding Local Councils (Exchange of Maps) (Maale Adumim) 5752-1991. Cited in Samuel Berkowitz, The War of the Holy Places, Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies and Hed Artzi, 2000, p. 172.

7. Berkowitz.

8. Documents concerning the plan were placed at the author’s disposal courtesy of Maale Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel.

9. The map of the plan.

10. Ibid.

11. See the maps on the “Fence Administration” website. This also emerged from a conversation with one of the administration’s members.

12. On May 8, 2008, on Israel’s Independence Day, Maale Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel moved his office to the site of E-1 (Mevasseret Adumim) for a few days to protest against the freeze on construction at E-1.

13. Steven J. Rosen, “Obama and a Settlements Freeze,” Middle East Forum, January 28, 2009.

14. Hagai Huberman, “The Battle over Mevasseret Adumim,” Makor Rishon, December 14, 2007.

15. Protocols of a meeting between Shimon Peres and Benny Kashriel on January 24, 1996.

16.  Nathan Gutman, “Sharon: We Will Continue the Plan to Link Maale Adumim to Jerusalem,” Ha’aretz, April 5, 2005.

17. Nadav Shragai: “Mofaz: Settlement Contiguity between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim,” Ha’aretz, March 3, 2003.

18. The title of the CD: “Caution – They Want to Choke It.”

19. Nadav Shragai, “Livni Tours the E-1 Area,” Ha’aretz, May 2, 2008.

20. For further details on the many dangers implicit in the partition of Jerusalem, see Nadav Shragai, Jerusalem: The Dangers of Partition.

21. On the basis of unofficial data from the Civil Administration and other parties.

22. Husseini said at the time: “The most important Palestinian activity at present is building even without a permit.” See Nadav Shragai, “True Islam Is Not the Problem But the Solution,” in Moshe Amirav, ed., Mr. Prime Minister-Jerusalem, Carmel-Floersheimer Publishers, 2005.

23. From an item that appeared  in the local paper Yerushalayim in that period. See also Huberman, op. cit.

24. Huberman.

25. Regarding the import of Jerusalem’s  reverting to the status of an “outlying city,” see Nadav Shragai, Jerusalem: The Dangers of Partition, pp. 51-52.

26. Akiva Eldar, “Israel Expropriated Lands,” Ha’aretz, October 9, 2007.

 

About Nadav Shragai

Nadav Shragai is the author of The "Al-Aksa Is in Danger" Libel: The History of a Lie and the ebook Jerusalem: Correcting the International Discourse – How the West Gets Jerusalem Wrong. He was a reporter for Ha'aretz in 1983-2010 and currently writes for Israel Hayom.