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Delayed but Not Dead, the E1 Settlement Plan Threatens Lingering Two-State Dreams

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Land and Space

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on June 9, 2023, ordered the postponement of a hearing that would have advanced one of the most consequential West Bank settlement plans—the E1 Development Plan. The decision was made after a call between Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, and US sources told the Times of Israel that the postponement is “indefinite.”1 History shows, however, that the E1 plan has been repeatedly delayed but never abandoned.

The E1 plan (short for “East 1,” the Israeli designation of the area just east of Jerusalem) encompasses nearly 3,500 Israeli settlement homes and creates a critical wedge between the northern and southern West Bank that would prevent the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state. The hearing for public objections on the E1 plan was initiated in February, just two months after the new far-right government was installed at the first meeting of the Civil Administration’s Higher Planning Council (HPC). This hearing, one of the final stages before plan approval, had been delayed in March to June 12, and is now again postponed—although no new meeting has been set.

While the E1 Development Plan has essentially been slow-walked since it was introduced in the 1990s during Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister, critical infrastructural work to lay the groundwork for the plan has already been completed. For example, the Civil Administration laid the groundwork for major highways such as 4370, the Eastern Ring Road, and completed construction on a major Israeli police station. According to Amos Harel of Haaretz, writing back in 2009, the Ma’ale Adumim police station served as a kind of pretext, “opening a window” for installing all kinds of preparatory infrastructure that lay claim to the area:

A very large system of roads has already been completed, including an overpass, highways (some three lanes wide), traffic circles, lighting, observation posts, fences and a dividing barrier on the highway. The cost of this construction is estimated at NIS 100 million.2

At its February meeting, the HPC approved the E1 plan, along with numerous other West Bank settlement building proposals, authorizing 7,000 new settlement homes to be built across the West Bank, the largest number ever approved at one time and far exceeding the totals approved in 2022 and 2021.3 

Construction of the Ma‘ale Adumim police station in 2007 was one component of the E1 Development Plan.

Construction of an Israeli police station serving the settlement of Ma‘ale Adumim and surrounding areas, shown here on August 23, 2007, was one component of the E1 Development Plan.


Karen Manor, Activestills

What Is the E1 Development Plan?

Roughly 40,000 Israelis currently live in the Israeli settlement of Ma‘ale Adumim, built on the lands of the Palestinian villages of al-‘Izariyya, Abu Dis, al-Tur, al-Khan al-Ahmar, al-‘Isawiyya, ‘Anata, and al-Nabi Musa. Ma‘ale Adumim is so large that Israel designated it as a city in 2015. It contains a huge shopping mall, a replica of Las Vegas’ famed Venetian resort, a lake, a theater, a music conservatory, an amusement park, an industrial park, and a country club, among other modern luxuries (see The Three Israeli Settlement Rings in and around East Jerusalem: Supplanting Palestinian Jerusalem).

The E1 Development Plan would expand this settlement bloc to contain (another) industrial park, a new settlement called Mevaseret Adumim, thousands of new settlement homes, hotels, and a police station (already built).

The lands of E1—approximately 12 square kilometers—currently serve as a critical transportation corridor for Palestinians between the north and south of the West Bank. They lie deep in the occupied West Bank, 11 kilometers east of Jerusalem’s municipal boundary. The plan, which would complete the encirclement of Jerusalem with Jewish settlements, is clearly driven by political goals, not any logical urban planning rationale (see Israel’s Vision for a Greater [Jewish] Jerusalem).

The lands of E1—approx-imately 12 square kilometers—currently serve as a critical transportation corridor for Palestinians between the north and south of the West Bank. 

Map 1: E1 Plan

Map 1: The E1 Development Plan, a critical settlement plan expanding Ma‘ale Adumim that would divide the West Bank into two parts


Jerusalem Story

In 2006, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights characterized the E1 expansion (and Ma‘ale Adumim itself) as one of several major settlement blocs that will make a geographically contiguous Palestinian state impossible.4 The new construction would bifurcate the West Bank into north and south sections for Palestinians, solidifying a series of settlements stretching along Highway 1 from the Jordanian border and the northern Dead Sea, all the way to Jerusalem.

The daily lives of the thousands of Palestinians commuting through this vital north–south West Bank transportation artery would also become more arduous with the development of E1, most likely forcing Palestinian commuters to take a lengthy and circuitous route toward Jericho to get from north to south or vice versa. They would be barred from the existing highways 417 and 437, which function as central traffic arteries and could be made off-limits to Palestinians and dedicated to serving settlements instead.5

The area directly surrounding E1 has already been subjected to repeated demolitions and evictions to make way for construction—315 Palestinian structures between 2009 and 2020 were demolished.6 As a result, 842 Bedouin were displaced from 18 communities that are directly affected by E1 and currently subject to a “coercive environment” that renders life extremely challenging,7 on account of minimal access to healthcare, education, and other civil services.8 This environment of coercion is deployed to force Palestinian Bedouin out of their encampments and into urban settings in Areas A or B under Palestinian Authority control, thus ridding the Israeli authorities of them and freeing the land for development.9

Palestinians have protested the E1 plan since its inception in the 1990s. In 2013, activists from Stop the Wall and other groups set up a tent village known as Bab al-Shams in the area,10 restoring it in 2019 after a segregated bypass road was built nearby.

The area directly surrounding E1 has already been subjected to repeated demolitions and evictions.

International Pressure

Even in recent years, as Israel’s settlement project has ramped up considerably due to relaxed US policies, strong US and EU opposition is still believed to be the primary cause for repeated delays in implementing the E1 Development Plan and the blow to the two-state project it represents.

Palestinian activists message the Obama administration at Bab al-Shams protest camp in the E1 area in March 2013.

Palestinian activists erect a protest camp in the E1 area, focusing their protest on the visit of then US president Barack Obama, West Bank, March 20, 2013.



On March 14, 2023, US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides told a webinar gathering sponsored by Americans for Peace Now, “E-1 was a disaster. I went full bore on E-1,” essentially confirming the US role in delaying it.11

Even former US president George W. Bush, widely believed to be biased toward Israeli interests, sought assurances that Israel would not build in the E1 corridor because of its implications for a future Palestinian state.

During the administration of Donald Trump, Israel increased settlement building substantially; however, the Greater Jerusalem Bill, which would have annexed several large West Bank settlements (including Ma‘ale Adumim) surrounding Jerusalem and thus greatly expanded Israel’s Jerusalem municipal boundaries, did not pass (see Israel’s Vision of a Greater [Jewish] Jerusalem).12 US pressure was believed to have impeded the legislation, as the Trump White House was concerned it could complicate its so-called Deal of the Century—a plan to bring Palestinians and Israelis to a final status agreement that ultimately failed.

US President Joe Biden’s administration has not reversed controversial Trump-era policies such as moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.13 Though US aid to the Palestinian Authority and the UN agency tasked with administering services to Palestinian refugees has resumed, Palestinian–Israeli relations are more strained than ever.

At the Aqaba summit in February 2023, Israel committed to a short-term freeze on “discussing” new settlements or demolishing Palestinian homes; a reduction in raids into Palestinian communities; respecting the “status quo” in Jerusalem; and releasing more Palestinian tax revenues illegally withheld.14 Each of these commitments was broken in the weeks following the summit.

“E-1 was a disaster. I went full bore on E-1.”

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides

Delayed But Not Dead

Any construction in the West Bank must go through a planning process that begins with approvals by the Ministry of Defense. Subsequent to those approvals are meetings by various subcommittees of the HPC, which approved the E1 plan on February 22–23, 2023.15 Next, the Subcommittee for Objections was scheduled to meet on March 27—but as has happened so often in the past, its deliberations were postponed to June 12 due to political pressure from the United States. Then, on June 9, the day after a call between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on June 8, Israel notified the US of the latest postponement decision.

The June 12 meeting of the subcommittee was intended to provide a final hearing for those who object to the plan.

History shows that the E1 Development Plan has many lives, however, and with the latest Israeli government making swift moves to consolidate Israeli settlement, especially around Jerusalem, it will require continued international pressure to prevent implementation of this critical piece of the settlement landscape. And—as Israeli Jerusalem observer Daniel Seidemann noted on Twitter—concessions by Israel always have a political cost.16

A timeline of the evolution of Israel's E1 Plan for the greater Jerusalem region

A timeline of the evolution of Israel's E1 Plan for the greater Jerusalem region


Jerusalem Story



Amos Harel, “NIS 200m Spent on New W Bank Neighborhood,” Haaretz, February 1, 2009.


Jacob Magid, “Israel Advances Plans for 7,000 New Settler Homes, Places E1 Project Back on Docket,” Times of Israel, February 23, 2023.


Tamara Tamimi and Osama Risheq, “Palestinian Bedouins in the E-1 Corridor: A Critique of Donor Aid,” Al-Shabaka, July 18, 2022.


United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), “Tightening of Coercive Environment on Bedouin Communities around Ma’ale Adumim Settlement,” March 11, 2017.


Tamimi and Risheq, “Palestinian Bedouins.”


United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), “UN Officials: Israel Must Halt Plans to Transfer Palestinian Bedouins,” May 20, 2015.


Patrick O. Strickland, “Israel, E1, and the Meaning of Bab Al-Shams,” Middle East Monitor, January 25, 2014.


Jacob Magid, “US Envoy Looks to Bolster West Bank Economy with 4G Service, Tech Offerings,” Times of Israel, March 16, 2022.


Jeffrey Heller, “U.S. Pressure Delays Israel's ‘Greater Jerusalem’ Bill: Legislator,” Reuters, October 29, 2017.


US Department of State, “Aqaba Joint Communique,” United States Government, February 26, 2023.

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