Palestinians and supporters protest Israel’s planned destruction of the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in E1. (Photo: Flash90)
What is E1?
- E1 (“East 1”) is the Israeli administrative name for an area in the occupied Palestinian West Bank east of occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem. It’s located inside the boundaries of the large illegal Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. Israel is planning to expand the Ma’ale Adumim settlement into E1, including nearly 4,000 housing units for Jewish Israelis. (See here for a map of E1.)
- Plans for settlement construction in E1 were initiated by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in the 1990s but have been frozen on and off since 2005 due to pressure from the international community.
Why is E1 so controversial?
- E1 and the Ma’ale Adumim settlement cut deep into the West Bank, effectively cutting it in two. Israel’s construction of settlements in the area precludes the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state being created in the occupied territories as part of a two-state solution in Palestine/Israel, which the US and international community support. E1 is also part of an Israeli plan to cement control over occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem by cutting it off from the West Bank with a ring of Jewish settlements in and around the city’s eastern perimeter. As explained by Amnesty International:
“[The E1 area currently] provides a vital passage between the northern and southern West Bank. Should Israeli construction take place on this land, a continuous Israeli settler presence will be established from occupied East Jerusalem to the Jordan Valley, effectively cutting the West Bank in half and severing East Jerusalem from the remainder of the occupied West Bank.”
- The US and international community have repeatedly warned that settlement expansion in E1 would be a devastating blow to the two-state solution. However, it should be noted that many experts and other observers believe the creation of a Palestinian state in the occupied territories is already all but impossible due to Israel’s constantly expanding settlement enterprise, with upwards of 700,000 Jewish settlers living in nearly 250 official and unofficial settlements throughout East Jerusalem and the West Bank, many strategically located to make Israel’s control of the land permanent. As such, settlement expansion in E1 and other sensitive areas like Qalandia (Atarot) would simply be the culmination of Israel’s plans for dividing, controlling, and de facto annexing the West Bank. (See here for map of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.)
How does Israeli policy in E1 impact Palestinians on the ground?
- Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians living in E1 has also drawn harsh criticism from rights groups and the international community. This treatment includes forced displacement of families and communities, destruction of homes, and denial of basic services.
- About 3,700 Palestinians live in E1, mostly Bedouin who live in 18 villages. According to Israeli rights group B’Tselem:
“These communities have been living in the region for decades in what are termed ‘unrecognized’ villages. Demolition orders have been issued over the years for most of the buildings in these communities. None of the communities are linked to the power grid and only about half are connected to running water. They receive no basic services such as health care or education. The residents pursue a traditional way of life based on shepherding, even though their access to pastures and markets is limited.”
- Of these Bedouin, around 2,300 are refugees of the Jahalin tribe. They ended up in the area after being expelled from their traditional home in the Negev desert (Naqab to Palestinians) in what became southern Israel during the state’s establishment in 1948. Some arrived in E1 after being displaced a second time in the 1990s due to settlement expansion in the area. As noted by Amnesty International:
“Many homes in the Jahalin communities have been destroyed by the Israeli military, and most others, as well as two primary schools, have demolition orders. The communities also suffer from recurring Israeli settler attacks on residents, including children, as well as on homes and water supplies. Those who commit these acts benefit from near-total impunity.”
- Israel’s plans to forcibly displace Palestinians from the village of Khan al-Ahmar, home to members of the Jahalin tribe, and destroy a local school, has attracted international attention in particular. About 180 people, including some 90 children, have faced the threat of being thrown out of their homes since 2018 when Israel’s supreme court ruled they could be evicted. Since then, international pressure has caused Israel to repeatedly delay the destruction of Khan al-Ahmar. In criticizing Israel’s plan, the UN, International Court of Justice, European Parliament, and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International warned that the destruction of Khan al-Ahmar would be a violation of international law that could amount to a war crime. In October 2018, the ICC’s chief prosecutor warned Israel over Khan al-Ahmar, writing: “It bears recalling, as a general matter, that extensive destruction of property without military necessity and population transfers in an occupied territory constitute war crimes.”
- If Israel proceeds with its plans for E1, any remaining Bedouin villages in the area will be destroyed and the families living there forcibly displaced. Palestinians will be cut off from their lands and separated from family and friends living nearby. Roads currently used by Palestinians will be restricted for settlers only and Palestinians will be denied the right to use them, making traveling in the occupied West Bank even more difficult for Palestinians amid a web of Israeli checkpoints, walls, settlements, and military bases. Some Palestinian communities will become ghost towns or isolated enclaves, which Palestinians will need special permission from Israel to access.
Who has condemned Israel’s plans for E1?
- Israel’s plans for E1 have been widely rejected by the international community, including the UN, close allies of Israel like the US and EU, and human rights organizations.
- On November 3, 2021, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967 and the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing condemned Israel’s plans for E1 and its settlement enterprise as a whole, declaring:
“The very raison d’être of the Israeli settlements in occupied territory – the creation of demographic facts on the ground to solidify a permanent presence, a consolidation of alien political control and an unlawful claim of sovereignty – tramples upon the fundamental precepts of humanitarian and human rights law.”
“The Israeli settlements are the engine of the occupation… They are responsible for a wide range of human rights violations against the Palestinians, including land confiscation, resource alienation, severe restrictions on freedom of movement, mounting settler violence, and racial and ethnic discrimination.
“Most seriously, the purpose of settler implantation – rupturing the relationship between a native people and its territory – is the denial of the right to self-determination, which is at the very core of modern human rights law.”
- On November 22, 2021, 26 Democratic members of Congress led by Representative Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, recently returned from a visit to Israel and the occupied territories, sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging him to pressure Israel to stop settlement expansion in E1, expressing their “immense concern” over what they called “doomsday settlements.”
- In 2012, the administration of President Barack Obama and European countries pressured Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop after his government advanced plans for E1, with France and Great Britain threatening the unprecedented action of withdrawing their ambassadors if they proceeded. A State Department spokesman noted Israel’s E1 plans would be “especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution,” while British Foreign Secretary warned they would make the creation of a Palestinian state "almost inconceivable."
- The administration of President George W. Bush also pressured Israel to freeze the E1 settlement. In 2005, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that "We have told the Israelis in no uncertain terms that [settlement in the E1 area] would contravene American policy."
E1: Basic Facts & Figures
- E1 covers about 3,000 acres, or 4.6 square miles. Of that, about 375 acres is privately-owned Palestinian land.
- Israel’s overall plan for E1 consists of 3,910 settlement housing units for Jewish Israelis, 2,152 hotel rooms, and an industrial zone. A police station and some infrastructure have already been built as first steps.
- Approximately 3,700 Palestinians are threatened with forced displacement by E1.
- As with all Israeli settlements, E1 violates international law, including Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Conventions, which states: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”