Skip to main content

Q and A: Inside Israel's planned settlement

By Fred Pleitgen, CNN
December 5, 2012 -- Updated 2126 GMT (0526 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Israel plans to begin construction of settlements in the East 1, or E1, zone in the West Bank
  • Comes after the U.N. voted to grant Palestine non-member observer status
  • Palestinians believe construction here would essentially cut the West Bank in half
  • Group: Currently 137 Israeli settlements in the West Bank, with about 325,000 inhabitants

(CNN) -- International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen reports from the site of E1, a controversial settlement that the Israeli government plans to build.

What is E1?

I was standing on the barren hilltops East of Jerusalem and it is hard to believe the area could be at the center of an international controversy. E1 stands for East 1 and marks territory that the Israeli government has slated for settlement construction in the West Bank. It's about 12 square kilometers (4.6 square miles), and when completed will touch the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Map: Israel E1 settlement plan  Map: Israel E1 settlement plan
Map: Israel E1 settlement planMap: Israel E1 settlement plan

The construction in the E1 area would be an expansion of one of the largest Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Ma'ale Adumim, with about 40,000 inhabitants, and would merge it with the greater Jerusalem area.

Why has the plan caused so intense international reaction?

After the United Nations General Assembly vote on November 29 to grant the Palestinians the status of a non-member observer state in the body, Israel announced settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a response, saying part of that would likely take place in the E1 area.

U.N. victory for Palestinians
Israel responds to U.N. Palestinian vote
Rice: U.N. vote an obstacle to peace
Palestine status upgraded at U.N.

The Palestinians believe construction here would essentially cut the West Bank in half and could also impede access from the West Bank to East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians would like to see as the capital of any future Palestinian State. In an interview with CNN, the Palestinians' chief negotiator Saeb Erekat condemned the plan saying: "There is no chance for a Palestinian state. I mean it is impossible. Anyone who looks at the map, looks at the geography will know exactly that this decision means that there is no more two-state solution."

How many Israeli settlements are there?

According to the settlement monitoring group Peace Now, there are currently 137 Israeli settlements in the West Bank, with about 325,000 inhabitants in total. The settlements are essentially Israeli towns of various sizes in Palestinian territory. Many of them, like Ma'ale Adumim, look almost like any other Israeli town with everything from supermarkets to shopping malls and schools.

What is their legal status?

The legal status of the settlements is in dispute. The United Nations and many scholars of international law consider them illegal, but Israel and some experts like the late Eugene Rostow of the Yale Law School and Julius Stone, international law professor at the University of Sydney, have said they are legal. The Palestinians want Israel to give up most settlements as part of any future two-state solution, but many believe that is not realistic considering the size of some of them.

How do settlements impact the peace process?

Settlements are one key reason why there have been no negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians for several years. The Palestinians say they will only return to the table if Israel freezes all settlement construction, while Benjamin Netanyahu's government wants negotiations without preconditions. The dispute over new construction in the E1 sector is adding fuel to the fire and the U.N. believes it might destroy any chance of a two-state solution for good.

How would ordinary Palestinians be affected by E1 development?

For average Palestinians in the area, the concerns are immediate. Attala Titi, a taxi driver in the town Eizzaria near Jerusalem, told me he fears additional detours and checkpoints if settlements are constructed in the E1 area. "If they build this settlement and close off our roads it will mean that my trip from Hebron to Jericho would take between five hours to a whole day."

How about people currently living in the settlement?

Ma'ale Adumim's Mayor Benny Kashriel is happy at the prospect of expanding the settlement, a project that has been on hold for years.

"This place, this residential neighborhood, it is in the Ma'ale Adumim municipality, part of Ma'ale Adumim municipality, government land. It has to be built for our young couples," he told me from his office.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Israel-Gaza conflict
Are you in the region? Share photos and video of what you are witnessing, but please do not expose yourself or others to a dangerous situation.
Follow CNNArabic for the latest news and analysis from the Middle East and rest of the world.
November 24, 2012 -- Updated 2025 GMT (0425 HKT)
As the dust settles over Gaza and Israel amid relative calm, analysts consider who were the winners and losers from the conflict.
November 23, 2012 -- Updated 1240 GMT (2040 HKT)
Palestinian Authority leaders renewed calls for unity with their Hamas-led rivals after the latest Israel-Gaza conflict, but the fighting may have left Hamas with the upper hand.
The relentless pace of the Israeli airstrike on Gaza gave the country's military time to make a significant dent in the offensive capability of Hamas, the Israeli military said.
November 22, 2012 -- Updated 1425 GMT (2225 HKT)
The brief but bloody Gaza conflict marks a clear wake-up call to both sides on the need to start serious talks beyond the new cease-fire.
November 22, 2012 -- Updated 1425 GMT (2225 HKT)
However crude the calculation, the winners and losers in the Israel-Gaza conflict are already reshaping political alliances in the Middle East.
November 22, 2012 -- Updated 1428 GMT (2228 HKT)
In the background of the drama playing out in Gaza and southern Israel, an election looms. On January 22, Israelis will go to the polls.
November 26, 2012 -- Updated 1136 GMT (1936 HKT)
Four-year-old Yosef lies in a hospital bed with curiosity gleaming in his eyes as he listens to a family friend tell him the age-old story of Jonah and the whale.
November 22, 2012 -- Updated 1958 GMT (0358 HKT)
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy has won praise for his effort to bring about a cease-fire highlight the delicate balancing act he faces.
-- Updated GMT ( HKT)
Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas have been engaged in a bitter, decades-long conflict over Gaza.
November 24, 2012 -- Updated 1855 GMT (0255 HKT)
What is the group, where did it come from and what does it hope to achieve by its rocket attacks on Israeli targets? CNN explains.
ADVERTISEMENT