Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced construction plans for some 3,500 new housing units in the E-1 area of the West Bank that effectively connects Jerusalem with the town of Ma’ale Adumim.
The unthawing of long-frozen Israeli building comes just days before Israelis reluctantly return to polling stations for the third consecutive time on 2 March, in a bid to break the long-running political deadlock. The Israeli leader said he issued “instructions” for the plan to “immediately” move forward following a ‘6-7 year delay’ imposed due to international pressure, namely under the Obama Administration.
While speaking to the annual Besheva conference in Jerusalem, Netanyahu underscored the initiative is consistent with the recently-unveiled peace proposal by U.S. President Donald Trump. The While House plan bars Israel from undertaking any unilateral actions on lands allocated for a Palestinian state, excluding E-1. The Premier further asserted that the Jewish settlement of E-1 will secure Jerusalem’s status as Israel’s indivisible and eternal capital, as it would impede territorial contiguity from populated Palestinian areas to the eastern side of the city.
Netanyahu is seemingly making every effort to shore up political support among Israeli residents of the West Bank. In addition to numerous political rallies at various settlements, he also met with U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on a hilltop overlooking the city of Ariel. The two leaders discussed the joint mapping process of the West Bank, which will facilitate the extension of Israeli sovereignty over significant parts of the disputed territories under Trump’s peace initiative, including Ariel.
Not all West Bank settlers have been convinced by Netanyahu’s repeated pledges to annex the Jordan Valley, Judea and Samaria. “I have great doubts that Netanyahu will do that, will go for sovereignty,” said resident Novik. “I think that he talks about it a lo,t but I think there is always something, something comes up at the last minute. I personally thought that it would happen a couple of weeks ago after Trump came up with his plan and that quickly disappeared. So, it’s another disappointment,” he said.
Others go even farther, accusing the Israeli premier of making empty campaign promises in his hard-fought battle for a record fifth term in office. “I think that this is a big deception maneuver on the side of our Prime Minister Netanyahu, I’m sorry to say,” said settler leader and former rightwing Knesset Member Elyakim Haetzni.
West Bank communities have highlighted their support for Netanyahu regardless of their personal ideological reservations.
West Bank Settlement leader Daniella Weiss said she “will vote for Netanyahu.” She did however voice the opinion that neither “leaders” nor the “Jewish people” should determine territorial concessions, arguing “we get the full borders of the land of Israel as promised in the Bible from God to our patriarchs.”
Deputy Mayor of the West Bank city of Ma’ale Adumim, Guy Yifrach , said that he has no doubt “there is a consensus in Israeli politics” over “applying sovereignty over Jewish settlement in Judea, Samaria (the Biblical Hebrew names for West Bank) and the Jordan Valley, surely regarding Ma’ale Adumim – which was considered as an inseparable part of the State of Israel in all past agreements.” Saying, “the question is who will advance it, and who will drag his heels,” Mr. Yifrach concluded that he believed Netanyahu would immediately advance the process, if he was to receive “U.S. permission” contingent upon successfully forming the next government.