Three left-wing Israeli NGOs have warned that illegal Israeli settlement construction activities in the West Bank’s E1 area will erode the viability of an independent Palestinian state and the resolution of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Speaking on Monday at a Civil Administration hearing on E1 construction plan, architect Uri Reicher, who represented Peace Now, Ir Amim and the Association of Environmental Justice in Israel, raised objections to the project that involves building nearly 3,500 settler units in the area.
“Israeli construction on E1 harms Palestine’s future growth potential and therefore closes the door to the possibility of a peace agreement,” Reicher wrote in a submission to the Civil Administration, parts of which he read out.
“It could even be said that, in fact, the project has been advanced not out of urban planning considerations, but in order to achieve the political goal of thwarting any opportunity to reach a political agreement” between Israelis and Palestinians.
Civil Administration representatives said the hearing was solely designed to take into account technical considerations and not political or diplomatic ones.
Reicher, however, stressed that it was impossible to separate the technical from the political considerations.
E1 is a 12-square-kilometer (4.6-square-mile) territory illegally annexed to Ma’ale Adumim that stretches to the north and west of the Israeli settlement. It is located northeast of East al-Quds.
Critics say the construction plan in the area would create a continuous stretch of settlements in a way that would disconnect the West Bank’s north from its south.
Reicher said it is more logical for the land to become part of East al-Quds than Ma’ale Adumim, warning that without E1, East al-Quds will become an island within the occupied territories.
E1, he added, is critical to the development of East al-Quds when it becomes part of a future Palestinian state, because it represents the only real option for substantive growth and development.
The architect also noted that for the Palestinians, E1 sits in a central location linking East al-Quds with the nearby city of Jericho, and within a wider circle, the area provides for a link with the cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem.
He further said halting the Israeli construction plan in E1 and transferring its use to Palestinians is consistent with international and domestic law.
Most of the international community considers Israeli settlement construction illegal under international law and an obstacle to the so-called two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds.
The UN Security Council has in several resolutions condemned the Tel Aviv regime’s settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian lands.