Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Naftali Bennett standing against the background of the illegal shantytown Khan al-Ahmar, March 21, 2021.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday evening spoke with President Joe Biden for the first time since the PM’s visit to the White House on August 28.

Also on Sunday: Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered the Judea and Samaria Supreme Planning Committee to suspend discussions on approving the E-1 construction plan to connect Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem. The plan covers an area of about 3,000 acres, most of it is state land, with the construction of about 3,500 housing units at its center.

The E1 zone / Courtesy of Jewish Virtual Library
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E1 is located at the narrowest point of Judea and Samaria, where the illegal Khan al Ahmar squatters’ settlement has been festering since 2018, with both the Netanyahu and Bennett governments preferring to ignore a Supreme Court decision to remove it. That’s because E1 is the key to whether or not there will be a Palestinian State someday in Judea and Samaria. If E1 remains desolate, with only the illegal shantytown dotting the area from Ma’ale Adumim to Jerusalem, there’s a good chance a contiguous Palestinian State will someday stretch through there. On the other hand, should the plan for urban sprawl from Jerusalem to Ma’ale Adumim be carried out, then any future Arab political entity would be forever split in its middle.

The E1 plan had been frozen for years, and the Supreme Committee renewed deliberations on it during PM Netanyahu’s last government. The committee proceeded through the first eight months of the Lapid-Bennett coalition but now put it aside again. According to Israel Hayom, one reason for the halt was an outcry from Meretz who declared that E1 constituted a red line that cannot be crossed. The other objection to the E1 plan has been coming from the Americans, who are well aware of the consequences to the two-state plan should a solid wall of Israeli suburban homes be allowed to stretch across the PA’s narrowest waist.

Back to the PR, we received from the Israeli government: Prime Minister Bennett congratulated President Biden on the operation to eliminate ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi and said that the world is now a safer place thanks to the courageous operation of the US forces.

The two leaders also discussed regional challenges, especially the growing Iranian aggression, and the steps to block the Iranian nuclear program. They also discussed the situation between Russia and Ukraine.

Prime Minister Bennett thanked President Biden for his steadfast support of Israel as well as the support of his entire administration, especially with regards to American assistance to the Iron Dome system.

Finally, Bennett invited Biden and his wife to visit Israel and the two leaders agreed to maintain regular contact. According to reports, Biden promised to come visit later this year.

According to reports in the Israeli media, the decision was due to pressure from the US and the Meretz party. Neither Bennett nor Gantz have addressed the decision, as of yet.

Funny story: the last time then-Vice President Joe Biden visited, the Interior Ministry declared the planned construction of 1,600 housing units in Ramat Shlomo, in north-eastern Jerusalem. It wasn’t a designed snub, but it hurt nevertheless.

Maybe launch E1 the next time Joe and Jill Biden come visit?

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.