VIEW : Israel’s E1 plan and its practical implications — Atif Shamim Syed
The recent Israeli move to go ahead with the E1 plan is a reaction to the upgrading of Palestine’s status to a non-member state by the United Nations
E1, an abbreviation for East 1, is an Israeli acronym for the 12-kilometre piece of land that lies between the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem. East 1 has not been formally annexed by the Jewish state, and thus still remains a part of the West Bank. Ma’ale Adumim is classified as a city by the authorities and is widely seen by Israelis as a suburb of Jerusalem. However, despite being very close to Jerusalem, Ma’ale Adumim is situated inside the West Bank and is technically not a city but a settlement.
The development plan for East 1, known as the E1 plan, was formulated by Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. The E1 plan aims at creating an arc of Jewish settlements around East Jerusalem, effectively alienating it from the Palestinian West Bank. The E1 plan will also cut the West Bank into two halves — north and south — smothering any hopes for a future contiguous Palestinian state.
In theory, Palestinians could still travel between the two parts of the West Bank through a link road. However, such a road can only provide transportation facility. A future Palestinian state, in that case, will have two different Palestinian communities connected to each other only by a road or a highway. Such a road will eternally be at the mercy of the Israelis who could stifle this modicum of connectivity simply by blocking — or completely shutting off — this conduit.
The E1 plan also contains a tacit implication that a future Palestinian state, if it ever came into existence, will not include East Jerusalem. This is an assumption that practically does away with the Palestinian aspirations for a separate state.
Many Israelis deem Ma’ale Adumim, an illegal settlement, as a part of Israel and insist upon its inclusion in any peace negotiations with the Palestinians. A land swap for this territory was also proposed in the Geneva initiative and the Clinton proposal. However, there is no viable means of annexing Ma’ale Adumim other than expanding the settlement and linking it up with West Jerusalem. The alternative solution is a link road or corridor connecting the two locations. From the Israeli point of view, such an arrangement poses enormous security threats rendering it unacceptable.
East 1 is currently inhabited by Bedouins who primarily raise cattle for a living. These Bedouins along with the Palestinian village of Khan Al Ahmar, which is situated inside East 1, must be removed before the E1 plan comes into effect. This will be a brazen act of forced relocation in a long list of atrocities committed by the state of Israel since it came into being in 1948. Moreover, the deprivation of this vast plot of land will deal a heavy blow to the Palestinian meat and dairy production as well as its agriculture.
There are several other dire consequences of the E1 plan. Presently, Ramallah is the administrative capital of the Palestinian Authority and serves as the West Bank’s focal point for education and business. Ramallah can be reached from Hebron and Bethlehem through East Jerusalem in an hour. The E1 plan will sever this vital Arab route with an alternative road that will go around Ma’ale Adumim. No such road presently exists. As a consequence, Palestinian commerce and education will be severely affected.
The recent Israeli move to go ahead with the E1 plan is a reaction to the upgrading of Palestine’s status to a non-member state by the United Nations. The plan was immediately condemned by the international community, including the European Union and the US. There is immense pressure on Israel from France and Britain, who are warning the former of serious consequences in case the E1 plan is put into effect. Israel had, earlier, reached an understanding with its long time ally, the US, that it had no intention of going forward with the E1 plan. However, the Jewish state scrapped this agreement and announced that it would soon begin construction in East 1.
Reaching an amicable settlement for East 1 is, without doubt, a tough challenge but it can be accomplished through comprehensive negotiations. Israel, however, plans to impose its will on the Palestinians through the barrel of a gun. It is time Israel realised that it needs to show sincerity and seriousness if it wants lasting peace with the Palestinians. It is evident from the fierce opposition to the Israeli plan that the international community has lost patience with the Jewish state and its unilateral acts of provocation will no longer be tolerated by the free world.
The writer is an investment banker and a freelance columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org