As has been widely reported in the Israeli, Palestinian, and international media, on June 6, the Jerusalem Regional Planning Committee conducted hearings on a plan (Plan 14049) for the construction of a new portion of the A-Zayyen/Mount of Olives traffic interchange, to be located on the Ma’aleh Adumim road, on Jerusalem’s eastern border. Plan 14049 provides for construction in an area of 150 dunams (35 acres) of land. Full details of the Committee’s decision have not been made public as of this writing; however, approval of the plan appears to be a forgone conclusion.
Some press reports have asserted that this plan is an integral part of plans to commence construction at E-1, several miles to the east. Given the gravity of this assertion, we believe it is important to examine what the plan entails and what connection it has, if any, to E-1.
Location and Context
The A-Zayyem/Mount of Olives interchange is the meeting point of the major roads on East Jerusalem’s eastern flank – the place where the various roads connecting between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim, and the northern West Bank and the southern West Bank, intersect (a map can be viewed/downloaded here). The roads in question are:
· National Route No. 1: this road runs on an east-west axis and connects Tel Aviv to Ma’ale Admumim and Jericho, via Jerusalem. (Please note that this road is different from Municipal Route No. 1, which was built on the Green Line, and runs on an axis that runs to the north and south of the Old City).
· The Eastern Ring Road – northern segment: This section of road has been built but never opened. It is a segregated road, divided by a wall that runs down the middle. Once opened, Israeli traffic will be routed to one side of the dividing wall, allowing these cars to move freely in and around Jerusalem. Palestinian traffic will be restricted to the other side of the wall, on what is in effect a “sealed” road that permits only through-traffic between Ramallah and Bethlehem without any access to Jerusalem, via the winding roads and hairpin turns of Wadi Nar.
· The Eastern Ring Road – southern segment: The southern segment of the Eastern Ring Road, which is yet to be built, will integrate the outlying areas of East Jerusalem into Israel proper. It will also allow easy access from the northern part of the West Jerusalem to the city’s southern reaches of Har Homa and Gilo.
· The Mt. Scopus Tunnel Road: This road leads links Ma’aleh Adumim Road to Sheikh Jarrah and central West Jerusalem, via a tunnel under Mt. Scopus.
What does Plan 14049 entail?
The primary objective of Plan 14049 is the creation of an interchange between the not-yet-constructed southern segment of the Eastern Ring Road, the Mt. Scopus Tunnel road, and Route No. 1.
The secondary objective is to allow residents of the Palestinian neighborhood of A -Tur to access the Mount Scopus Tunnel Road. Both the tunnel and road were built on lands expropriated from residents of A-Tur, but under the situation that exists today, both are inaccessible to Palestinians coming from A-Tur. The only way they can access the tunnel/road is to travel several miles in the wrong direction (to the east) to Ma’aleh Adumim, make a u-turn, and then, on the way back to Jerusalem – at a point that is, absurdly, adjacent to their original point of departure – they can finally get on the Mount Scopus Tunnel road. The new interchange will correct this bizarre situation.
Is the plan related to E-1?
Serious questions/allegations have been raised about the relation ship between this new interchange to be built under Plan 14049 and E-1. We believe it is important to address each of these directly.
Question: Is Plan 14049 related to E-1?
Answer: No, Plan 14049 is not related to E-1, formally or informally. The most that can be said is that one of the roads that would be connected to this new interchange leads to another road that lead to E-1.
Question: Does the construction of this new interchange make the construction of E-1 more likely or more feasible?
Answer: Not really.
Question: Is the approval of this plan an indication of an Israeli government intention to proceed with E-1?
Answer: No. The most that can be said is that both this junction and E-1 are part of an overarching government scheme to integrate the settlement blocs into Israel proper, which is a rather oblique connection.
Question: If E-1 is not involved, is the plan still significant?
Answer: Indeed it is. We refer readers to our recent presentation, which explains the ongoing “spatial shaping” taking place in and around East Jerusalem. In that presentation we lay out, conclusively, how new infrastructure construction in these areas – major roads that are linked to the national road grid – is part of a broader strategic effort to seamlessly integrate the settlement blocs and East Jerusalem into pre-1967 Israel. The A-Zayyem/Mount of Olives interchange is an important component in that effort. Thus, Plan 14049, while fairly minor and not by any measure a “smoking gun” related to E-1, is still another critical piece in the puzzle that is creating these strategic infrastructure and “spatially shaping” a new Israeli Greater Jerusalem that is antithetical to peace and a two-state solution.