On 7/20 Haaretz published a blockbuster story entitled, “New Israeli Construction Plan to Cut Off Ramallah From East Jerusalem.” The story reports on a plan to expand the West Bank settlement of Adam (aka, Geva Binyamin) and, for all intents and purposes, connect it with the East Jerusalem settlement of Neve Ya’akov. The article quotes multiple sources confirming that the plan has reached “advanced planning stages.” Yet, it seems that even though the plan has been further developed, it has not yet started going through the planning process, as it still has not been submitted to the Civil Administration Planning Council.
Importantly: this plan is not new. Since the early 2000s Israeli planning authorities have been working on it, and news that the plan was being advanced bubbled up previously in 2007 and 2008. What is different now than in the past is talk of the plan comes in the context of an opening of the settlement floodgates in East Jerusalem, including green lights and expediting of plans the implementation of which, for any number of reasons, in the past was far-fetched or even inconceivable. Consequently, it is important to flag this scheme as early as possible, and to monitor in vigilantly.
While it is not yet known if the Adam/Geva Binyamin plan has changed from what it was in the past, given the number of planned new units cited in the Haaretz article (1100), it seems likely that is has not changed significantly from the earlier version (which involved 1200 units). That being the case, here are the details and analysis of the plan, as it existed in 2008 (see our February 2008 report here):
- In 2007, the plan in question was known as Specific Plan 240/3, providing for 1200 new units in Adam (housing for more than 5000 people), with the new housing designed specifically for ultra-Orthodox Jews (whose attitude toward housing is “if you build it, we will come, regardless of which side of the Green Line it is on – an attitude exploited by successive Israeli governments to expand/cement occupation for decades).
- Located northeast of Jerusalem, Adam is a small (around 4800 residents), isolated settlement. Its westernmost edge is about 4 miles from the Green Line, but only about a mile from Jerusalem’s municipal border (which Israel expanded deep into the West Bank in 1967).
- The planned new construction under SP 240/3 is on land located in the West Bank and within the (expansive) municipal borders of Adam. However, the route of Israel’s separation barrier in this area de facto annexes a large area of land (from the village of Hizma) to Israel (around 450 acres, comprising virtually all un-built land in the vicinity and depriving the Palestinian neighborhood of al-Ram of any opportunities for growth), overlapping with the municipal borders of Adam. As a result, the planned new construction is on this de facto annexed land, meaning that it is both inside the West Bank, but on the Jerusalem side of the barrier.
- Thus, implementation of the plan will result in the settlement of Adam straddling the security barrier. It will also effectively weld Adam – presently a small, isolated settlement – to Jerusalem by making it an extension of the large East Jerusalem settlement of Neve Ya’acov.
- In so doing, the plan would create a new contiguous, populated settlement bloc on Jerusalem’s northeast flank, blocking al-Ram from any development and further severing East Jerusalem from Ramallah and the rest of the West Bank.
- Creating this contiguous bloc is clearly the goal of the plan, as evidenced by the fact that the new housing is for ultra-Orthodox settlers (Adam is not, at present, home to a large ultra-Orthodox population). The new section ultra-Orthodox section of Adam will link organically to an existing ultra-Orthodox section of Neve Ya’acov.
- Similar to E-1 and E-2/Nahla (and plans for major new settlement activity in Atarot that have been stuck in the drawers of planners for years but now seem likely to get new life) the Adam/Geva Binyamin project has potentially devastating implications for the two-state solution.
- At present, it is still possible – if difficult – to draw lines in Jerusalem that will allow for two capitals based on an approach like the Clinton Parameters (what is Israeli will remain Israel, what is Palestinian will become part of a Palestinian capital). This remains true with respect to Jerusalem’s northeast flank, where it is possible to include Neve Ya’acov and Pisgat Zeev as part of an Israeli capital without either dismembering a Palestinian state, leaving any Palestinian areas of Jerusalem cut off from the rest, or severing East Jerusalem from the West Bank. Expansion of East Jerusalem settlements, however, imperils such a solution – and expansion like the kind planned under SP 240/3 – are especially damaging, deliberately using settlements to fragmenting any future Palestinian state, and sever East Jerusalem from the West Bank.