Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has ordered Housing Minster Uri Ariel to cancel plans for 1,200 housing units that could accommodate thousands of people in the “E-1” area of the city of Maaleh Adumim, located 10 minutes east of Jerusalem and overlooking the Dead Sea.
The cancellation was ordered shortly after the Haaretz newspaper reported that the Housing Ministry has hired an architect to plan construction of residential units for a reported 20,000 people in Maaleh Adumim and in smaller communities in Judea and Samaria. The cancellation affects only E-1 and not other areas.
The Office of the Prime Minister was unusually honest, although inaccurate, in explaining the order to Ariel, a leading Jewish Home minister.
“There is no need to pay international prices for a process that does not have great significance,” it told the Yediot Acharonot newspaper.”
Not of “great significance?” Apparently, the Prime Minister’s office was being sarcastic. More probable, it was being cynical.
E-1 has become a flashing red line for the Palestinian Authority. Building Jewish homes in E-1 would guarantee that the Palestinian Authority would not endanger Israeli security with a contiguous land mass from eastern Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria.
Constant reports that E-1 would “cut off” the Palestinian Authority are patent lies because highways connect Arab villages and cities in all directions.
It has been a political ping-pong ball within Israel, with nationalists such as Ariel fighting tooth and nail for Israel to stand up and take a position that the mostly vacant 4.5 square mile area, which is part of the city of Maaleh Adumim, will be a home for Jews, sooner and not later.
Almost everyone except the Obama administration knows that it will happen. Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas once upon a time may have had little hope that he could prevent E-1 from being developed, but the Obama administration has effectively become his spokesman and is dead set against its development.
The Bush administration gets the first “credit” for opposing construction in E-1 after President George W. Bush came out with his “Roadmap Plan,” which eventually fell off a cliff, a better result than the Oslo Accords that literally exploded in Israel’s collective face.
The saga of E-1 is a prime example of why Israel cannot depend on promises from the United States. President Ronald Reagan once wrote Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a letter that promised recognition of Israel’s right to build there. The promise was not a legal document, and its worth was only as long as Reagan was in office. The Obama adminstration has said it is not committed by the letter.
It was none other than Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, whose memory has been defaced into an image of Peace Now, who in 1994 provided Maaleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel with documents to make E-1 an official part of the city.
Nearly 30 years later, all that Israel has built on E-1 is a police station. The Arabs have woken up and have sent Bedouin families to dot the area so they can tell foreign and local reporters how they have been living on the land for centuries.
E-1 has been a toy, or pawn, for Prime Minister Netanyahu.
He has defied nationalists and has toed the line in Washington to keep the bulldozers out of the area.
True, after Abbas went to the United Nations last November to upgrade the PA’s status in the General Assembly to that of a non-member state, Netanyahu unleashed the E-1 pawn and announced plans to build 5,000 residential units there.
So much for hot air.
Not a single house has been built there. In fact, Netanyahu inflicted an unannounced building freeze on almost all of Judea and Samaria until last month, one hour after Israel freed the second batch of terrorists in the four-step program to release 104 murderers in return for the privilege of officially arguing with the Palestinian Authority.
Netanyahu’s policy on E-1 sounds like a broken record.
In January 2009, Netanyahu secretly promised President Barack Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that Israel would not build in E-1, according to an Al Jazeera report in 2011.
Netanyahu, of course, denied the report, prompting Maaleh Adumim Mayor Kashriel to demand that the Prime Minister “order the defense minister to submit the master plan for the neighborhood immediately and progress with development on site, as former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did during his tenure.”
If Netanyahu indeed did not promise Obama to freeze building on E-1, it must have been written in some kind of Hieroglyphics. Six months after he agreed to keep E-1 off the chessboard, PA negotiator Saeb Erekat said on at least two different public occasions that Obama forced Israel to commit to prevent any construction there.
In the Israeli elections after the fall of the Obama-Livni administration in 2009, Netanyahu campaigned by boasting, “I will link Jerusalem to Ma’aleh Adumim through the neighborhood of… E1. I want to see neighborhoods in one contiguous Jewish construction.”
Ho-ho and Happy Hanukkah, but a great miracle did not happen in E-1.
It will happen one day, but only after the curtains close on the Peace Talks Follies, which so far has won the applause only of journalists who need good copy for other journalists and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to read.
About the Author: Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu is a graduate in journalism and economics from The George Washington University. He has worked as a cub reporter in rural Virginia and as senior copy editor for major Canadian metropolitan dailies. Tzvi wrote for Arutz Sheva for several years before joining the Jewish Press.
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