Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to put off to a later time a meeting on a settlement plan that if implemented, would split the occupied West Bank into two halves.
Since coming to power early this year, the new far-right government in Israel has announced and implemented so many extreme policies that even Israel’s closest allies are now rebuking it. These policies range from spreading violence in the Palestinian lands and killing dozens of Palestinians, and efforts to limit the power of Israel’s judiciary, to extending illegal settlements in the northern part of the West Bank, etc.
It was last month in May that Israel announced it planned to implement what it called the E1 settlement project, which if carried out, would add 3,412 housing units built for Jewish settlers on occupied Palestinian lands. The project would also connect the Kfar Adumim and Maale Adumim settlements with occupied East Jerusalem.
The E1 area, also called the E1 zone or E1 corridor – is an area of the West Bank within the municipal boundary of the Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. It is located adjacent to and northeast of East Jerusalem and to the west of Ma’ale Adumim and covers an area of 12 square kilometers.
In other words, the new controversial settlement plan would simply split the West Bank in half, isolating East Jerusalem from Palestinian communities in the West Bank and force Palestinians to make even lengthier detours to travel from one place to another while allowing for settlements housing Israelis to expand.
Netanyahu under pressure to withdraw controversial settlement plan
Hours after the announcement of the new controversial settlement plan in the West Bank, a wave of criticism targeted Netanyahu and his far-right government. The United States and the European Union both issued separate statements and lashed out at the plan.
A statement from the EU said it “condemns the establishment of permanent structures for Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank.” The EU called on the government “to reverse this action” which goes “against efforts to lower tensions on the ground.” A spokesperson for the US State Department also reiterated that Washington is “deeply troubled” by the move, calling on the Israeli government to “immediately stop” the plan.
Human rights groups also criticized the Netanyahu government. Alon Cohen Lifshitz, a spokesperson for the Bimkom, which is an Israeli human rights group of professional planners and architects, called the proposal a “war crime”.
Speaking to Middle East Eye earlier this week, Lifshitz said: “Our main objection from an international law perspective is that it’s a war crime. Within the areas of the boundaries in the plan are three communities. The approval of the plans will create a forcible transfer of these communities who were there before the plans were even approved.”
Out of mounting pressure from in and out of Israel against this policy, Netanyahu couldn’t resist and postponed next week’s meeting on the project. The meeting was scheduled next week and was slated to discuss the highly controversial settlement plan in the E1 1area of the occupied West Bank. The unbridled desire of the new government in Israel to move on with its extreme policies has affected its relationships with Israel’s years-long allies, especially the United States.
Just to give an example, it was early in March that the US President Biden said Netanyahu would not be getting an invitation to the White House “in the near term.” Moreover, Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a planned trip to Israel last week, a move that is believed to be a reaction to Israel’s new settlement plan.