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 Worrying Developments lay the ground for future E1 Construction

Over the past weeks Ir Amim has learned of several worrying developments related to the area of E1:

  • Demolition orders to all the structures in the Bedouin town of Khan Al-Akhmar, located near E1.
  • Construction of the Zeitim Interchange which, when completed, could allow for the opening of the Eastern Ring Road’s northern section, a necessary step before construction in E1 can take place.
  • Bypassing the National Planning Council’s decision to annul the masterplan for the Mt. Scopus National Park (adjacent to E1 from the West) and marking the area as a national park in other masterplans currently being advanced.
  • Planning of a road tunnel that will allow increased traffic between Jerusalem, E1 and Ma’ale Adumim. Settlement expansion in and around Jerusalem depends on developing this and other road infrastructure.
  • Advancing a plan for a promenade in A-Tur which will overlook  the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. The promenade connects settler compounds in A-Tur and is part of a chain of Israeli projects connecting the Old City all the way to E1.

It is worthwhile to note that  while international attention has thus far prevented settlement construction in E1, Israel is able to use a range of additional mechanisms which, while attracting less attention, are no less instrumental in advancing its intentions for E1.

The developments described below come at a time when MKs from the coalition parties of the Likud, Jewish Home and Kulanu are advancing legislation to annex the Ma’ale Adumim settlement and the E1 area. An initial discussion of the move took place in the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on January 2nd . While the discussion closed with no decision,  speakers voiced their belief that after the new American administration assumes office, advancing this annexation bill would be possible.

Demolition orders issued for the school and all homes in the  Bedouin village of Khan al-Akhmar – Khan al-Akhmar is a Bedouin village to the Northeast of the planned E1 settlements and on the Israeli side of the planned route of the separation barrier in the area (see in the map the purple star eastwards from E1) . On January 19 Civil Administration officials distributed 42 demolition orders for the school and all the homes in the village.  Israeli plans for E1 include the displacement of all Bedouin communities in the area and its vicinity. In the last two years there has been a sharp increase in demolitions by the Civil Administration in the area. The villagers have until February 23rd (today) to appeal the demolition orders.

Construction of the Zeitim Interchange has begun - The Zeitim Interchange is located on the road between Jerusalem and E1/Ma’ale Adumim, close to the A-Zaim checkpoint (see in the map the red star above Az Za’yim). It will connect the northern part of the Eastern Ring Road (coming from the West Bank in the North toward Jerusalem) to road 417 leading southwards. Connecting the two roads will play a crucial part in realizing the E1 plans: Israeli construction in E1 will prevent Palestinians from using road 437, which today connects to road 417 and enables Palestinian traffic between the northern and southern West Bank. The northern section of the Eastern Ring Road is intended to replace road 437, thus  eliminating this obstacle to settlement construction in E1. Construction of the road was completed several years ago, although it has yet to be opened for traffic. Construction of the interchange may signal the intention to open the road, thus  allowing Israel to divert Palestinian traffic away from road 437 and the E1 area. The northern part of the Eastern Ring Road became known as the Apartheid road as it will have separate lanes for Israeli and Palestinian traffic.

Mt. Scopus Slopes area marked  as national park in new plans – The area targeted by the park masterplan (see in the map the area between Issawiyya and A-Tur demarked by green lines) is adjacent to the E1 area. It was advanced with the intention of connecting Ma’ale Adumim and E1 to Israeli controlled areas in East Jerusalem.
On September 2014, following an appeal by Palestinian land owners together with Ir Amim and BIMKOM, the appeals committee of the national planning council decided to annul approval of the national park plan (TPS 11092a) by the District Committee.  Despite this decision, in  recent months the Planning Authorities marked the area in question as a national park in other plans being advanced in the planning committees (see details below in the paragraph after the next).

If this blatant bypassing of the appeals committee’s decision receives final approval, it will give the area an official status of a nature reserve, where the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority has authority.Giving the INPA such authority means that the area will serve to link the E1 area to Israeli controlled areas in East Jerusalem .It will also render impossible use of this area  for much needed development of the adjacent Palestinian Neighborhoods of A-Tur and Issawiya.

On December 20 2016 the Jerusalem District Committee discussed the National Outline Plan no. 1 (NOP1). The purpose of NOP1 is “to designate areas for future public use”. The district committee specified a list of areas in Jerusalem which need to be marked in NOP 1 as open spaces. This included: “Mount Scopus National Park – The area of the national park needs to be marked in accordance with TPS 11092a, which was approved by the District Committee and brought back for renewed discussion by the appeals committee”.
On January 18 the Local Planning Committee recommended for deposit a masterplan for nature areas in Jerusalem (TPS 29287). The masterplan marks the area of the planned national park under the category of “nature preservation and national parks” and includes it on a list of areas where if a masterplan is initiated, “it will be handed to the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority for review and opinion prior to the discussion in the planning committees.”

This is not the first time the Jerusalem Municipality, together with the INPA, try to bypass the annulment of the national park plan. In July 2015 the municipality issued orders to seize the targeted area for “gardening purposes”.

Tunnel Construction at French Hill Junction – The junction is a major traffic way between central Jerusalem and the settlements in and around the east and north of Jerusalem (see in the map yellow star between French Hill and Shu’fat). Specifically, traffic from Ma’ale Adumim in the East and Pisgat Zeev in the North passes through the junction, which is often congested.
Recently the Municipal Finance Committee approved the budget for planning of a tunnel which will replace the junction, thereby allowing for smoother traffic. As demonstrated in similar projects such as the Begin Highway and Road 21, developing road infrastructure is a necessary step before increased settlement building can occur. Along with plans for construction in E1 and Ma’ale Adumim, there are plans for significant construction in the settlements Northeast of Jerusalem (Kochav Yaakov etc.).

Mount of Olives Promenade – Last week the plan for the Uziya Promenade (TPS 247338) was deposited for public objections. The Uziya Promenade(see in the map the blue star to the east of the Old City) is part of the larger Mount of Olives promenade which runs on the slope overlooking the Old City and Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif from the East . This project may not be as closely connected to E1 as the other developments mentioned above. Yet the promenade will add a link to the chain of Israeli projects that stretch from the Old City westwards all the way to the Mt. Scopus Slopes national park mentioned above and E1.
The full promenade runs between two settler projects in the heart of the A-Tur neighborhood: Beit Orot in the North and Beit Hachoshen in the South, with the potential of solidifying the two isolated settler compounds into a strategic block stretching through A-Tur.

As is well known from other examples (i.e. Ir David National Park in Silwan or the Hashalom Forest in Abu Tor), so called touristic projects in East Jerusalem are many times part of settlement projects and the overall Israeli strategy of consolidating Israeli control of the Historic Basin.

 

 

This list of developments demonstrates both by quantity and its diverse  means that the Israeli authorities are stepping up the pace in preparation for settlement construction in E1, thereby creating settlement contiguity between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim in the heart of the West Bank. This serious threat to the viability of the two-state solution also entails severe infringements on human rights of Palestinians: Extensive home demolitions, stifling of appropriate planning in Palestinian neighborhoods and increased settlement activity in the heart of the Palestinian population.

The E1 settlements are part of the Israeli paradigm of Greater Jerusalem: Connecting settlements around Jerusalem to the city while disconnecting East Jerusalem from the Palestinian towns around it.  Developments similar to the ones described above are also taking place in other areas of Jerusalem. Last summer, the Judea and Samaria subcommittee of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee discussed plans for road infrastructure in the West Bank. One of projects described as awaiting  budgetary approval was an expansion the tunnel road leading from Jerusalem to the Gush Etsion settlements. In December the Israeli media reported that the Ministry of Transportation gave the go ahead for a number of plans regarding road infrastructure in the West Bank. One of the reports,  which we have not yet been able to verify, stated that the NIS 30 million budget needed for planning of the tunnel road expansion has been approved.

Betty Herschman, Ir Amim's Director of International Relations & Advocacy, is away from the office on medical leave.
Please direct all inquiries to Ir Amim's Researcher Aviv Tatarsky
‚Äčaviv@ir-amim.org.il
972-52-6125119

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