Israel Advances E1 Settlement Project again, Ahead of Biden Trip

The Israeli government had decided to shelve the housing project of West Bank’s E1 Area, which had garnered a lot of controversies, due to international pressure back in January. They had reassured the Biden administration that they would not bisect West Bank, but now it seems that the Defense Ministry plans on advancing it once more. The West Bank construction is authorized by the Civil Administration of the ministry and its agenda was published on Tuesday. It highlighted that a meeting was scheduled for July 18thfor discussing the objections that had been made to projects, which had been approved initially.

The only projects in the docket were two E1 projects that included about 3,412 housing units. The government of the former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had first approved the E1 project in 2012 and then it had been put on hold for about eight years because of considerable pushback internationally. The housing units would be constructed in the middle of West Bank between Jerusalem and the Maale Adumim. As a matter of fact, even during the Trump administration, the plan had received pushback. This had been a surprise because the Trump administration had come up with a peace plan in January 2020 that saw all West Bank settlements annexed.

Netanyahu had decided to bring up the plan forward once more because of the threat of parliamentary action and ordered that it be moved to the next stage. This is where the High Planning Subcommitteeeof the Civil Administration comes in, as they need to hear any objections about the projects. A number of rights groups in Israel and numerous Palestinian attorneys had already filed their objections to the project. However, the repeated cycles of elections in Israel until last year had delayed the hearings on this matter. They had conducted two sessions, but the third one that had been scheduled for January had not taken place.

Back in March, US Ambassador Tom Nideshad said that they had made an aggressive push to ensure the plan would be withdrawn by the Israeli government. He said that while it was not possible to stop everything and it is wise to pick battles, but E1 was nothing less than a disaster. In February, two US and Israeli officials revealed that Washington had been reassured by Jerusalem that they would not let the E1 construction happen. Even if they wave the legal objections against the plan, there are still some other approvals that will be needed before they can get started and this can take months, or even years.

A statement from Peace Now said that the dangerous policies of the former premier were being promoted by the unity government. According to the left-wing group, the E1 plan has been opposed within Israel as well as internationally because it threatens the possibility of peace. There was no response from the Defense Ministry, but it was confirmed by the State Prosecutor’s Office. They have decided to take things forward just weeks before the US President, Joe Biden is scheduled for his first visit to Israel after taking office.

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