Progressive Democrats press Biden on 'doomsday settlements' ahead of trip to region
Twenty-nine progressive Democrats have called on the Biden administration to pressure Israel to prevent the construction of a “doomsday” settlement between Jerusalem and the West Bank, which critics say threatens the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state.
Israeli authorities are expected to hold a long-delayed meeting to discuss the building plans, shortly after US President Joe Biden's visit to the region.
The area of E1, east of Jerusalem, has long been considered a red line for previous US administrations and a point of no return for a potential two-state solution.
“We urge you to continue emphasizing in the lead-up to [US President Joe Biden’s 13-14 July] visit [to Israel and the West Bank] that settlement construction in E-1 remains a red line for the United States and to use every diplomatic tool at your disposal to ensure that Israel does not further advance these devastating plans,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
E-1 lies beyond the armistice demarcation line which separated Israel and the West Bank before the 1967 Six-Day War.
A settlement in E-1 would essentially bisect the West Bank in two, while also cutting off the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, long envisioned as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Thomas Nides, the US ambassador to Israel, has called the proposed settlements a “disaster” and said the Biden administration is going "full bore” to prevent its construction.
More than two dozen House Democrats sent a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in November saying the E1 settlements posed an “irreconcilable challenge to a lasting peace solution between Israel and the Palestinians”.
The lawmakers referred to the area as "a vital corridor to Palestinian life" and requested an update on the State Department's efforts to discourage E1 settlement advancement by mid-December.
Last year, the Biden administration said it "strongly oppose[s] the expansion of settlements", referring to plans to advance more than 3,000 homes for settlers in the occupied West Bank.
Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory are illegal under international law.
Despite opposition from Washington, Israel has continued to advance its plans with Defence Minister Benny Gantz, saying it was moving ahead with a "balanced" construction plan and it was not promoting all the construction plans on the table.
The E1 project near the Maale Adumim settlement was first proposed nearly two decades ago but has been shelved repeatedly due to international pressure.
On 18 July, Israel’s defence ministry is slated to hold a final hearing on the objections to two E1 projects totalling 3,412 housing units.