Netanyahu distances himself from E1 building plans

PM's office says any construction plans for E1 that were promoted during Uri Ariel's time in office are irrelevant now.

Nitsan Keidar ,

E1 land, between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim
E1 land, between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim
Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office distanced itself on Tuesday night from reports that Minister Uri Ariel, in his previous role as Housing Minister, had planned construction of homes in the E1 area which connects Jerusalem to Ma’aleh Adumim.

On Monday, the Peace Now organization said that the housing ministry was seeking to build 55,548 units in Judea and Samaria, of which more than 8,300 homes would be in E1.

But in a statement to foreign correspondents on Tuesday, the Prime Minister’s Office clarified that Netanyahu is not promoting building plans in E1 at this moment, and any plans promoted by Ariel during his time as Housing Minister are irrelevant. Ariel now serves as Agriculture Minister.

The statement said that "when he served as Minister of Housing, Ariel ordered some theoretical plans for development of E1. He did this on his own initiative and without approval. The Ministry of Housing has no authority to plan or build beyond the Green Line. The plans in question have no binding status."

Building in E1 has been a point of contention between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), and also between Israel and the West which objects to Israeli construction in the area, which the West calls “occupied territory”.

Israel approved construction in the E1 area in 2013, soon after the PA was recognized by the United Nations as a non-member observer state, in a unilateral move by PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas in violation of the Oslo Accords.

Netanyahu faced international criticism after the government approved new construction in the area, and later directed the city of Jerusalem to postpone a meeting on the construction..

The E1 project won approval from former Defense Minister Ehud Barak, but at the same time it was also reported that Netanyahu was delaying sending it onward to a planning committee, essentially shelving the project.

Tuesday’s statement is also not the first time that Netanyahu has distanced himself from Ariel’s promotion of building plans in Judea and Samaria. In 2013, Netanyahu reprimanded Ariel for promoting Jewish construction in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.

That incident occurred after it was reported that tenders had been announced for 20,000 new homes in Judea and Samaria and following criticism of the plans by the US State Department.