Jerusalem: A planning committee within the Israeli Army`s Civil Administration, which controls the West Bank, approved Wednesday to advance the construction of about 3,376 new homes in the E1 area.
The E1 area connects the West Bank settlement of Ma`ale Adumim with Jerusalem. Israel`s construction there is highly controversial since the corridor blocs a possible formation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank with a territorial continuity.
The Israeli cabinet announced its plan to construct 3,000 new housing units in the West Bank and in east Jerusalem, as well as in the E1 corridor on Friday, after the United Nations on Thursday authorized the Palestinian Authority`s request Thursday to have its status upgraded to that of a non-member observer state.
Wednesday`s discussion at the Civil Administration focused on construction plans on two parts of the E1 corridor: 1,200 units are set to be built in the southern part of the area and 2,176 are planned to be built in its eastern section. Construction isn`t planned to start anytime soon.
The move mainly means that other parties can now submit their objections during a 60-day period and only after addressing the objections can the planning and construction proceed. The discussion was moved ahead for Wednesday after government officials pressured Brig.-Gen.
Eitan Dangot, head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, a body that administers the Defense Ministry`s policies and directives in the West Bank, the Walla news website reported.
Israel has been at the height of a diplomatic crisis since announcing its construction plans on Friday. Britain, France, Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Brazil and Australia have all summoned the Israeli ambassadors to their countries and condemned the decision. Russia, Ireland, Finland and Egypt did the same, condemning the move and asking the Israeli government to refrain from it.
In addition, the Sky1 UK news network reported Monday that the British government is thinking of recalling its ambassador to Israel. On Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that further steps would need to be considered if the expansion plans were not rescinded.
Amid this mounting diplomatic pressure, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has departed Wednesday morning for a visit to Germany, where he is set to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is set to tell Netanyahu that if Israel does not rescind its decision and try resuming the peace talks, it would face seclusion from the international community.