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Israel Vows to Build in West Bank Site After Evicting Protesters

  • Robert Berger

Israeli border police remove a Palestinian from an outpost of tents in an area known as E1, near Jerusalem, January 13, 2013.

Israeli border police remove a Palestinian from an outpost of tents in an area known as E1, near Jerusalem, January 13, 2013.

Israel's prime minister has vowed to move ahead with settlement building in a Palestinian-claimed area near Jerusalem, after Israeli security forces evicted more than 100 Palestinian protesters from the site.

In an interview Sunday on Israeli radio, Benjamin Netanyahu said "there will construction" in the disputed E-1 zone between Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem and the major West Bank Jewish settlement of Maaleh Adumim. But he said it will take time for Israel to complete the planning process for 3,000 housing units.

Israeli security personnel entered the zone before dawn Sunday and quickly removed dozens of Palestinians who had set up tents Friday to protest the proposed settlement project. The protesters resisted passively and there were no serious injuries.

Conflicting claims

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd R) attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, January 13, 2013.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd R) attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, January 13, 2013.

Netanyahu told a Cabinet meeting he ordered the eviction to prevent anyone from harming what he called Israel's claim to territorial "contiguity" between Jerusalem and Maaleh Adumim.

Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state they say should include all of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, including E-1.

One activist told Israel Radio the Palestinian struggle against the planned settlement will continue. "We came here to stay here," he said. "We are Palestinian families, we own this land and we want to use it. We want to build over it, we want to plant it, we want our children to use it."

Another Palestinian man vowed to return, saying, "I will stay at long as it takes. And then I can build a house here and I can stay here."

The protesters obtained an Israeli Supreme Court injunction on Friday, preventing Israeli authorities from removing their tent camp in E-1. The Israeli government later declared the site a closed military zone and said the court ruling did not block the removal of the protesters.

Strategic zone

Palestinians say the proposed E-1 settlement's location at the center of the West Bank would make it impossible for them to form a state with viable borders and would block Arab access to East Jerusalem. Much of the international community also has criticized the Israeli plan, calling it an obstacle to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli supporters of E-1 say it would not obstruct an independent Palestine's connection to Jerusalem through Arab districts such as Abu Dis. They also say it would not prevent the northern and southern parts of the West Bank from being connected by a corridor at least 15 kilometers wide - about the same as Israel's narrowest waistline between the Mediterranean coast and the West Bank.

Michael Lipin contributed to this report from Washington.

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