With the media focused on the recent Israeli attack on the Jericho prison, the Israeli government has begun to develop facilities for what eventually could be the largest settlement project in the West Bank since 1967.
On Monday, Israeli officials confirmed that Israel was building a police headquarters and "other facilities" in what it calls the E-1 area, extending from East Jerusalem to the settlement of Maali Adomim, the largest in the West Bank.
In addition to 3550 settler units, the planned development would include a road network, six hotels and a park.
Non-Jews would not be allowed to live or buy land in the settlement.
"This project has received all the necessary authorisation and work on the foundation began several days ago," an unnamed official in the Israeli prime minister’s office has been quoted as saying.
Palestinian officials say that Israel is embarking on a new phase of "large-scale theft of our land". Khalid al-Qawasmi, the outgoing Palestinian Authority (PA) minister of local governance, said: "They are stealing our land in broad daylight. They are killing any remaining possibility for the creation of a viable Palestinian state. And they are doing it as America and Europe are watching passively."
Israel starts the E-1 settlement project
The Israeli TV channel 2 reported that Israel has already started constructing a police station on Palestinian lands located in E1 area, between East Jerusalem and Maali Adumim settlement. The police station is part of a wider settlement plan to link the two areas by blocking the geographical contiguity of the Palestinian areas.
The plan includes constructing 3500 housing units for settlers by annexing Palestinian lands in east Jerusalem area and separating the Palestinian territories by blocking any geographical contiguity.
The plan to construct the police station was originally approved by the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon.
The acting Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, said last week that the E1 project aims to connect Maali Adumim settlement with Jerusalem.
He claimed that if Israel doesn’t annex the lands there and connect Maali Adumim with Jerusalem, the settlement will become an “isolated island inside the Palestinian territories”.
Israeli Peace Now movement reported that the project eliminates the possibilities of achieving a peace deal with the Palestinians, and prohibits a contiguous Palestinian state.
Meretz member of Knesset (MK), Zehava Gal-On, slammed the Israeli plan and said that it sabotages the chances of reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Labor MK, Ophir Pines-Paz, said that it is impossible to count on Olmert and his policies.
"After twice this week making overtures to the left, to those wavering between Kadima and Labor, he has decided to make overtures to the right, to those undecided between Kadima and Likud”, Israeli online daily, Haaretz, quoted Pines-Paz, These overtures prove that it is impossible to count on Olmert and his policies. Olmert can’t stand the pressure of [Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu] Netanyahu’s attacks."
Meanwhile, Israeli army spokesperson, Adam Avidan, said in response to channel 2 report that the expansion process was supposed to start six months ago.
Israeli online daily, Ynet News, reported that the Israeli Internal Security Minister, Gideon Ezra, said that the United States did not voice firm objection to the beginning of construction of the E1 project