As covered in detail over the weekend in the Israeli media, a lawsuit brought by the Peace Now movement revealed that the government of Israel is moving ahead full steam with plans for a new settlement comprising 2500 units, widely dubbed “E-2” (referred to as the Nahla plan and, by settlers, as “Givat Eitam”). The plan deals with an area located east of the settlement of Efrat and southeast of Bethlehem. Documents released in connection with that lawsuit show that the government is actively working at this time to find additional West Bank land in the area that it can seize in order to build a large road necessary for construction of E-2.
While this plan is well outside of Jerusalem, its potential impact with respect to Jerusalem and the two-state solution is enormous, akin to that of the construction of E-1 on Jerusalem’s northeastern flank (this is why it is being called “E-2”). As we have noted previously (here and here), this plan, if implemented, would significantly prejudge the border between Israel and Palestine. It would contribute to the urban suffocation of Bethlehem, preventing one of the few remaining areas in which Bethlehem can develop. And, in conjunction with other existing and planned settlements, it would dismember the southern West Bank in a manner similar to the way E-1 would divide the northern and southern halves of the West Bank.
The news of the Netanyahu government’s active and ongoing efforts to implement E-2, coming on the heels of the recent Quartet Report and its findings with respect to settlements, reinforces the conclusion that Netanyahu is in “defiant mode” when it comes to settlement expansion and has in no way, thus far, been deterred.
For more details on E-2 – the history of the plan, its path through the Israeli legal system, and its implications on the ground, see: (1) this report by Peace Now, Kerem Navot, and Combatants for Peace; (2) this report from Peace Now regarding the January 2016 High Court decision rejecting Palestinian landowners’ objections to the planl and (3) this report from Peace Now providing comprehensive background on the project.