The E1 plan and its implications for human rights in the West Bank
December 02, 2012
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 bloc 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.
Who 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, members of the Jahalin Bedouin tribe were 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.
In response to the Palestinian statehood bid, the Israeli government has decided to promote zoning plans for the area known as E1, northeast of Jerusalem. The project is intended to link annexed East Jerusalem with the mega-settlement of Ma’aleh Adumin, thus finally making the creation of a contiguous Palestinian State impossible.
By Ir Amim/+972
December 2, 2012
E1 (derived from “East 1”) is a term applied by the Ministry of Housing to an area located just east of the Jerusalem municipal boundary, on the hills between Ma’aleh Adummim and Jerusalem. It lies north of the Jerusalem-Ma’aleh Adummim road and edges the Palestinian towns of Anata, Abu Dis, Azariya and A-Zayim. E1, which covers some 12,000 dunams (12 sq. kilometers), is part of the planning area of Ma’aleh Adummim. The main artery between the northern and southern West Bank runs through E1.
In recent years, Israel has begun building and settling the area. The development plan for E1 includes the transfer of the West Bank (Judea & Samaria) Police Headquarters from its present location, and the construction of at least 3,500 residential units, a large commercial center, and more. Plans for the E1 area make no reference whatsoever to the local Palestinian population.
Construction in the E1 area commenced in 2004 under the direction of Housing Minister Efi Eitam. The work was illegal because no building permit had been issued. As a result of international pressure, construction was halted a short time after it began.
At the beginning of 2005, the Ma’aleh Adummim municipality approved two detailed urban plans for the development of the area, as mentioned above: one for approximately 3,500 housing units (apartment buildings and villas), and the second for the transfer of the police headquarters. The plan generated harsh criticism from the American government and the European Union. Both demanded that the plan be frozen, on the grounds that it violated Israel’s commitments according to the ‘Road Map.’ Instead, they maintained that the future of this territory be decided upon by a final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Following this pressure, the Israeli government froze the project in 2004. However, building of the police headquarters was continued on the grounds that, like army bases, the police station would not be seen as creating facts on the ground, but rather as a building that could be removed.
On November 2012, following the Palestinian statehood bid, the Netanyahu government announced that it will promote a zoning plan for E1 which will allow the construction of 3000 housing units for Jews.
Here is the planned construction area for E1:
As can be seen in this regional map, construction at E1 will cut the West Bank in two (the area to the east is a desert, and on a very different altitude).
Ir Amim (“City of Nations” or “City of Peoples”) is an NGO which focuses on Jerusalem within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ir Amim seeks to render Jerusalem a more viable and equitable city for the Israelis and Palestinians who share it.