Israel's secret plan for West Bank expansion

Palestinians condemn 'extremely dangerous' scheme to grow settlement

Israel has taken a step towards expanding the largest settlement in the West Bank, a move Palestinians warn will leave their future state unviable and further isolate its future capital, East Jerusalem

The Israeli Peace Now group, which monitors settlement growth, said it had obtained plans drawn up by experts that the interior ministry had commissioned which call for expanding the sprawling Maale Adumim settlement near Jerusalem southward by 1200 hectares, placing what is now the separate smaller settlement of Kedar within Maale Adumim's boundaries.

The expansion is on a highly sensitive piece of real estate that both sides see as holding the key to whether the Palestinians will have a viable state with their own corridor between the north and south parts of the West Bank.

Israeli plans also call for expanding Maale Adumim northward in an area known as E1, but US opposition has thus far stopped Israel from building residential buildings there, although a police headquarters has been established.

The new plan, if approved by the interior minister, Eli Yishai, will help pave the way for the building of 6000 housing units between Maale Adumim and Kedar and on other lands to be annexed by Maale Adumim, says Peace Now staffer Hagit Ofran. "What they have in their minds is the expansion of Maale Adumim and this is one step towards that," Ms. Ofran said of government planners

The Palestinian MP Hanan Ashrawi said the plan was "extremely dangerous". She said that the new plan, combined with Israeli plans to build at E1, plans to demolish 88 houses in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem on grounds they were built without permits, the planned eviction of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood and other steps reflect "a mad rush to expand settlements to complete the isolation and siege of Jerusalem. Israel is destroying any chances of an agreement."

Hizki Zisman, a spokesman for the Maale Adumim municipality, said making Kedar part of Maale Adumim is an administrative matter of uniting local authorities and does not involve expropriating more land from Palestinians. He said the panel recommendation was "professional, not political" and that there was a great need to expand the settlement because of young couples needing bigger apartments.

An aide to Mr Yishai said the plan to make Kedar part of Maale Adumim arrived on the minister's desk yesterday and he had not yet taken a decision on it.

Mr Yishai, from the ultra-orthodox Shas party, is supportive of settlement activity but the timing for expanding Maale Adumim may not be propitious given the international scrutiny of the new right-wing Israeli government. An official in the Prime Minister's office declined to say what the attitude of the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was to the expansion: "Prime Minister Netanyahu has ordered a comprehensive review on a host of issues including settlements and the attitude towards peace talks. This will take a few weeks."

Ms Ofran said expanding Maale Adumim to include Kedar was also aimed at making the route of the West Bank separation barrier that is still being constructed penetrate deeper into the occupied territory.

Israel says the barrier is aimed at thwarting suicide bombers but the International Court of Justice has ruled it illegal, for being built inside the West Bank.

The Israeli supreme court is deliberating on the route of the barrier in the Maale Adumim area and received a recommendation from the relatively dovish Council for Peace and Security – made up of former senior security officers – that Kedar should not be included within the fence.

"If the fence is supposed to become the border of Israel, than making Kedar part of Maale Adumim expands the border," Ms Ofran said.

Meanwhile, the Netanyahu government yesterday adopted a rejectionist approach to peace talks.

The Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, ruled out opening negotiations with Syria unless it dropped all its pre-conditions relating to the Golan Heights. Days earlier, he said that Syria was not a "genuine partner for peace".

Syria recently said it would be willing to resume indirect talks as long as they focused on a complete Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, which Israel captured in 1967.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer / Web Designer

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leader in the e-cigarette ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leader in the e-cigarette ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future