Peace Now: Israel has plans for over 55,500 West Bank housing units


Israel’s Ministry of Housing is working on plans for more than 55,500 units in West Bank settlements, according to a new Peace Now report.

More than half the units are for construction east of the security barrier and include more than 8,000 units in the controversial E1 area, two new settlements and the legalization of at least six outposts, said the report, which was issued Monday.

The information was provided to Peace Now by the Housing Ministry following a freedom of information petition, according to the organization.

In response to the report, Israel’s housing minister, Yoav Galant, reportedly denied that there are plans to develop E1, the corridor between Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim. Settlement of the area would deny a contiguous area for a future Palestinian state.

The Peace Now report said the ministry paid more than $900,000 to plan for the E1 housing units without releasing public tenders, which could tip off Israelis and world leaders who are against building in the settlements. It comes more than a year after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a similar plan for the neighborhood following an international outcry.

Additional housing units are planned as well for Maale Adumim, Givat Eitam near Efrat, and two settlements near Talmon and Givat Zeev, according to the report.

The ministry also funded illegal projects in at least nine settlements, including Itamar and Shiloh, according to the report.

Peace Now also reported a plan for 21 housing units for Jews in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem near Herod’s Gate.

March backing settlement housing draws thousands


Several government ministers were among thousands who marched in support of settlement building in a corridor connecting eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The demonstrators, who marched to the controversial E1 corridor from the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim, were protesting the current U.S.-brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. They included Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel, who asserted that plans for E1 construction would continue, despite the peace process.

Zeev Elkin, Danny Danon, Yariv Levin and Tzipi Hotovely — all members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party — also attended the rally.

“Our message to the prime minister is don’t be afraid to build because it angers the U.S.,” Hotovely said. “We are here because this is our land.”

The Palestinians claim that building in the E1 corridor would cut off Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, break up the territorial contiguity of a future Palestinian state and sound the death knell to a two-state solution.

In November, Netanyahu canceled a tender for 1,200 housing units in the  corridor. The tender was part of 20,000 housing units to be constructed in the West Bank that were announced the previous day by Israel’s Housing Ministry.

Palestinian tent city in E1 corridor dismantled


Israeli police dismantled a Palestinian tent city set up in the controversial E-1 area.

The Israeli forces removed some 25 protest tents late Wednesday night located in the area between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim on land the Palestinians say is necessary to form a state. The removal came hours after Israel's Supreme Court lifted a temporary injunction on dismantling the Palestinian outpost, called Baab al Shams, or “sunny gateway” in Arabic.

In lifting the injunction, the court accepted the government's argument that the outpost could lead to a security crisis.

The evacuation reportedly took about an hour and the Israeli forces were not met with resistance.

Some 100 Palestinian activists and international activists were removed from the site on Jan. 13, more than a day after the tent city was erected in the area between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim on land the Palestinians say is necessary to form a state.

Israeli security forces removed the people but not some 25 tents, saying that met the court's requirements. Israeli soldiers since then have turned back Palestinians attempting to return to the outpost several times.

The Israeli government in November announced plans to approve construction of thousands of apartments for Jews in the area in response to the Palestinians' decision to appeal to the United Nations General Assembly for enhanced statehood status.

Israel’s Supreme Court allows evacuation of E-1 Palestinian tent city


Israel's Supreme Court ruled that the government can dismantle a Palestinian tent city set up in the controversial E-1 area.

The court on Wednesday lifted a temporary injunction on dismantling the Palestinian outpost, called Baab al Shams, or “sunny gateway” in Arabic.

In lifting the injunction, the court accepted the government's argument that the outpost could lead to a security crisis. The judges also accepted the Palestinians' claim that the tents were located on a section of E-1 that is believed to be private Palestinian land.

Some 100 Palestinian activists and international activists were removed from the site on Jan. 13, more than a day after the tent city was erected in the area between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim on land the Palestinians say is necessary to form a state.

Israeli security forces removed the people but not some 25 tents, saying that met the court's requirements. Israeli soldiers since then have turned back Palestinians attempting to return to the outpost several times.

The Israeli government in November announced plans to approve construction of thousands of apartments for Jews in the area in response to the Palestinians' decision to appeal to the United Nations General Assembly for enhanced statehood status.

Obama: ‘Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are’


President Obama has said privately that “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are,” columnist Jeffrey Goldberg wrote.

In a column posted on the Bloomberg website late Monday, Goldberg wrote that when Obama was told that the Israeli government had approved plans to advance the development of housing in the controversial E-1 corridor between Maale Adumim and Jerusalem, the president “didn't even bother getting angry.”

“In the weeks after the U.N. vote, Obama said privately and repeatedly, 'Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are.' With each new settlement announcement, in Obama’s view, Netanyahu is moving his country down a path toward near-total isolation,” Goldberg wrote.

Goldberg called Obama's relationship with Netanyahu “complicated,” and said Obama has been a “reliable ally” on “matters of genuine security.” He criticized Netanyahu for supporting Republican candidate Mitt Romney in last November's U.S. presidential election.

“Obama, since his time in the Senate, has been consistent in his analysis of Israel’s underlying challenge: If it doesn’t disentangle itself from the lives of West Bank Palestinians, the world will one day decide it is behaving as an apartheid state,” Goldberg wrote.

Goldberg suggests that Israel “may one day soon notice a significant shift” in American diplomatic protection in venues such as the United Nations.

If another issue, such as a vote on Palestinian statehood, arises again in the United Nations, “It wouldn’t surprise me if the U.S. failed to whip votes the next time, or if the U.S. actually abstained. I wouldn’t be particularly surprised, either, if Obama eventually offered a public vision of what a state of Palestine should look like, and affirmed that it should have its capital in East Jerusalem,” Goldberg wrote.

“What Obama wants is recognition by Netanyahu that Israel’s settlement policies are foreclosing on the possibility of a two-state solution, and he wants Netanyahu to acknowledge that a two-state solution represents the best chance of preserving the country as a Jewish-majority democracy. Obama wants, in other words, for Netanyahu to act in Israel’s best interests.”

Palestinians erect outpost in E1 area


Palestinian residents erected an outpost in the E1 area east of Jerusalem.

According to Ynet, approximately 200 Palestinians erected about 50 tents in the area in response to plans announced by the Israeli government in November to build settlements along the E1 corridor which connects Jerusalem to Ma’aleh Adumim, a West Bank settlement.

Ynet reported that a small contingent of international organizations were also involved in the construction of the tent outpost, which the activists called Baab al Shams, meaning “sunny gateway” in Arabic.

The Palestinians claim that building in E1 would cut Jerusalem off from the rest of the West Bank, break up the territorial contiguity of a future Palestinian state and sound the death knell to a two-state solution.

Israel's government argues that bypass roads would maintain contiguity.

U.S. rabbinical students deliver more than 700 letters against E1 to Netanyahu’s office


American rabbinical students studying in Israel delivered more than 700 letters expressing concern about settlement expansion to the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The letters, from American rabbis, cantors, rabbinical students, and cantorial students, are in response to the Israeli government's advancement of construction plans in the controversial E1E1 corridor between Maale Adumim in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

“All of us believe that the ultimate safety and security of Israel as a Jewish state will depend on reaching a peace agreement that also allows Palestinians to live safely and securely in their own state,” the letters, delivered Monday morning, state.

“We fear that building settlements in E1 would be the final blow to a peaceful solution.”

The letter writers also say that they fear that construction in E1 will damage “the critical relationship” between Israel and the United States, saying that construction in the E1 corridor violates repeated commitments to the United States, dating back to 1994, not to build settlements in the area.

The letter also said that “The current situation in the occupied territories violates Palestinian human rights and undercuts the very values on which Israel was founded – democracy, liberty, justice, and peace.”

Some 720 American rabbis, cantors, rabbinical students, and cantorial students signed the letter online, in an undertaking organized jointly by Rabbis for Human Rights-North America, J Street, and Americans for Peace Now.

Marisa James, Rabbis for Human Rights-North America's Rabbinical Student Fellow in Israel arrived Monday at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem with three other rabbinical students to deliver the letters. The group had been denied in advance an appointment with Netanyahu or a member of his staff to hand the letters over personally.

James told JTA that after much discussion a security guard accepted the letters and said he would make sure that they got delivered to the prime minister, turning what could have been controversial into a “lovely experience.”

Rabbis from Rabbis for Human Rights-North America's board plan to deliver a copy of the letter with its 720 signatures to the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC on Tuesday.

More than 400 Jewish clergy press Netanyahu on E1


More than 400 American Jewish clergy asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to go ahead with new construction in a corridor connecting eastern Jerusalem to the West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Adumim.

“We fear that building settlements in E1 would be the final blow to a peaceful solution,” read the letter released Monday and organized by J Street, Americans for Peace Now and Rabbis for Human Rights-North America. “If Israel builds in E1, it will cut East Jerusalem off from its West Bank surroundings and effectively bifurcate the West Bank. In doing so, E1 will literally represent an obstacle to a two-state solution.”

Successive American governments have opposed development in E1, concerned that it would interrupt the contiguity of any future Palestinian state. Israeli officials have argued that its development does not necessarily prevent a contiguous Palestinian state.

“As American rabbis and cantors, we also fear that construction in E1 damages the critical relationship between Israel and the United States,” the letter states. “Construction in E1 would violate repeated commitments to the United States, dating back to 1994, not to build settlements in the area.”

The signatories are rabbis, rabbinical students, cantors and cantorial students from across the United States, including large representations from Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Denver, Boston, Florida, Chicago, the Washington DC-area, and New York.

E1: An error in baseball and Mideast politics


E1

SodaStream Super Bowl ad buy has BDS movement’s eye


SodaStream's purchase of a Super Bowl commercial has the BDS movement in the U.S. saying it will step up its campaign against the Israeli firm.

Soda Stream, the maker of home soda machines, will pay about $3.5 million for a 30-second spot for the game. The company reportedly had net earnings of $27.5 million in 2011, according to The Associated Press.

The U.S. boycott, divestment and sanctions movement said it will step up its opposition to SodaStream in light of the Super Bowl ad buy.

The company’s main plant is in Mishor Adumim, an Israeli industrial zone next to Maale Adumim in the West Bank, which has recently been in the news over the planned construction of 3,000 housing units in the E1 corridor connecting Maale Adumim to Jerusalem.

SodaStream has been in the United States for four years, but in that time has only penetrated the market to 1 percent of households. By contrast, the company has had great success in Europe, according to AP.

“The new SodaStream publicity blitz has given the U.S. boycott, divestment, sanctions movement a marvelous opportunity to bring our campaigns targeting settlement products to a new, unprecedented level of visibility and success,” Anna Baltzer, an organizer of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, told AP. “It’s time to burst SodaStream’s bubble. There’s nothing environmentally friendly about military occupation.”

Last month, a SodaStream television commercial was banned in the United Kingdom for “disparaging” other soda manufacturers. The ad shows soft drink bottles exploding as people use the machine at home to carbonate their drinks.

Palestinians appeal to U.N. over Israel’s E1 housing plan


The Palestinians appealed to the United Nations Security Council to stop Israel from making plans to build 3,000 apartments in a controversial area outside of Jerusalem.

In a letter to the Security Council, the U.N. General Assembly and the U.N. secretary-general, the Palestinian representative to the United Nations said the announced plans represent “Israel’s contemptuous response” to the international body's vote to approve enhanced observer statehood status for the Palestinians. Authorization for the construction planning was made by the nine-member security Cabinet on the evening of Nov. 29 in the hours after the General Assembly vote.

The housing would be built in the E1 corridor connecting Jerusalem to the large Maale Adumim settlement, an area that the Palestinians say is necessary to keep the borders of a Palestinian state contiguous.

The housing is still in the planning stages and construction is a long way off, according to reports

“Israel is methodically and aggressively pushing ahead with this unlawful land grab and colonization of Palestine with the intent to alter the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian territory, especially in and around East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley, in its favor in order to entrench its illegitimate control of the land and prejudge the outcome of final status negotiations,” the letter said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he would block the settlement building using all legal and diplomatic means, The Associated Press reported.

Meanwhile, Palestinian official Nabil Shaath said earlier in the week that the Palestinians would take Israel to the International Criminal Court over the settlement planning and the announcement that Israel would withhold $100 million in taxes collected for the Palestinians, which it will apply to the PA's outstanding electric bill

‘‘By continuing these war crimes of settlement activities on our lands and stealing our money, Israel is pushing and forcing us to go to the ICC,’’ Shaath said.

Living next to E1, Maale Adumim residents reflect Israeli consensus on settlements


From the terrace of the mall in Maale Adumim, a West Bank settlement eight miles from Jerusalem that serves as a bedroom community for Israel’s capital city, customers get a panoramic view of the Judean Desert to the east.

Arab and Jewish towns dot the hilltops, roads snaking between them. A bright sun shines through the clouds, offering some warmth to offset the December breeze.

The northwest side of the settlement also offers a beautiful view: a sprawling landscape of rolling hills, shrubs and rocks framed by Jerusalem in the background.

It is this tranquil space that represents the newest controversy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The area, known as E1, acts as a dual corridor, connecting Maale Adumim to Jerusalem on the east-west axis and Ramallah to Bethlehem on the north-south axis. The cities are two of the largest in the Palestinian Authority.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu caused a diplomatic stir last week when he announced Israel’s intention to build there – a controversial plan that has been started and aborted since it was first announced in 1994.

The Palestinians charge that if Israel develops E1 it will bisect any future Palestinian state, rendering a two-state solution impossible. Netanyahu’s government claims that E1’s development is necessary to connect Maale Adumim to the Israeli capital.

For now, E1 sits empty. Its only building, an Israeli police station, sits on a plateau like a fortress, surrounded by fences and towers. Nearby, a bright red-and-white sign welcomes the rare visitor to Mevasseret Adumim, the name of the planned development. But there’s no neighborhood there. Instead, a road winds through empty hills to the police station. Traffic circles punctuate the road every so often, but they open in only one direction. There’s nowhere else to go.

Maale Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel says Mevasseret Adumim is necessary for the burgeoning growth of his city, home to some 40,000 people. He doesn’t think Israel will ever cede the land to the Palestinians.

“We will be an Israeli city, and our land has to be in Israeli territory,” he said. “We need it for residential expansion. It’s important strategically because it’s on the hills.”

Some of the mayor’s constituents are more blase about what happens.

“It won’t bother me if they build or not,” said Maayan, 21, adding that she was not really following the controversy.

Many Israelis refer to Maale Adumim, along with two other large Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank, as “consensus” settlements — areas of the disputed territory that will remain part of Israel in a two-state solution. And the residents of Maale Adumim reflect Israel’s consensus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: They want a peace deal but are skeptical that the conflict will be resolved anytime soon.

“I believe we can and should live in peace,” said Batsheva, who has lived in Mitzpe Jericho, near Maale Adumim, for 30 years. “No one wants to be at war. Everyone wants to accept each other’s rights. If I knew the other side would accept our right to exist, that would be ideal.”

It’s hard to find anyone in Maale Adumim who opposes developing the E1 area; most said its development is necessary for practical reasons. Maale Adumim is too big to give up and evacuate in the event of a peace settlement, they say, so why not connect it to Jerusalem and provide extra living space?

“It’s very important to connect to Jerusalem,” said Chaim Pe’er, 35. “There’s no option to evacuate Maale Adumim. When you’re not going to be evacuated, you’re going to be calmer.”

Several Maale Adumim residents interviewed by JTA drew a distinction between themselves and settlers deeper in the West Bank, who are more ideological about holding on to the territory they call by its biblical names, Judea and Samaria.

“I’m not happy about having two or three homes in a hole that we need to protect, just big cities,” Ahuva Nachmani said, derisively referring to far-flung Jewish settlements.

Maayan, like many residents of Maale Adumim, moved to the city not because of its West Bank location but because it is cheap, quiet and near Jerusalem.

Maale Adumim resident Itzik Naim sees his role as more ideological. Along with E1, Israelis should try to populate as much of the West Bank as possible, he said.

“If we had a prime minister who was a real Jew and who believed in God, we wouldn’t need excuses to build,” Naim said.

Israel moves ahead with E1 settlement plans; EU summons envoy


Israel moved ahead with plans to build 3,000 settler homes in one of the most sensitive areas of the West Bank, as the European Union summoned Israel's envoy to add its voice to a storm of international protest.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday the global condemnation, some of it from the Jewish state's closest traditional allies, would not deter it from defending its “vital interests”.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday declared the housing project, which could divide the West Bank and make the creation of a contiguous future Palestinian state almost impossible, to be an uncrossable “red line”.

An Israeli Defence Ministry official said architects and contractors appeared before a subcommittee of the military-run Civil Administration in the West Bank and registered their plans for construction in the E1 corridor near Jerusalem, a preliminary step before building permits are issued.

Angered by the U.N. General Assembly's de facto recognition of Palestinian statehood on Thursday, Israel announced the next day it would build the new dwellings for settlers, on land near Jerusalem that Palestinians seek for a future state.

BARREN HILLS

The decision by Netanyahu's pro-settler government to build houses on the E1 corridor's barren hills could bisect the West Bank, cut off Palestinians from Jerusalem and further dim their hopes for an independent state on contiguous territory.

“E1 is a red line that cannot be crossed,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The subcommittee convened hours before Netanyahu was due to visit Germany, where he faces a dressing down from Chancellor Angela Merkel over the settlement project.

The Israeli prime minister, for his part, is still smarting from what he considers Berlin's betrayal after Germany abstained in the U.N. vote upgrading the Palestinians' status to non-member state at the world body.

Netanyahu, stopping in Prague to thank the Czech Republic for voting against, reiterated that he remained committed to a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

Peace should entail “a demilitarized Palestinian state (that) recognizes the one and only Jewish state of Israel”, he said, citing two Israeli conditions Palestinians have balked at.

Netanyahu, favored to win a January 22 general election with the backing of right-wing voters, has rejected calls by the United States and Europe to reverse course over settlements, which most countries consider illegal.

“Israel will not sacrifice its vital interests for the sake of obtaining the world's applause,” he said in Prague.

Israel's housing minister has said construction work in E1 will not begin for at least a year. Commenting on the subcommittee's session, the defence official said it was a “procedural, preliminary stage”.

ENVOYS SUMMONED

The European Union summoned Israel's ambassador.

“The Israeli ambassador has been invited by the Executive Secretary General of the EEAS (European External Action Service) to meet to set out the depth of our concerns,” a spokeswoman said.

The Executive Secretary General – the senior diplomat in charge of policy for EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton – is Pierre Vimont, former French ambassador to Washington.

Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi summoned the Israeli envoy in Rome for a similar meeting on Wednesday, following Britain, France, Spain, Sweden and Denmark in such a move.

But EU states have been struggling to agree on a common response.

The spokeswoman said the EU reaction would depend on the extent to which they threatened the creation of a viable state of Palestine in the future.

After winning the U.N. status upgrade, the Palestinians can access the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which prosecutes people for genocide, war crimes and other major human rights violations and where it could complain about Israel.

The Palestinians have said they will not rush to sign up to the International Criminal Court, but have warned that seeking action against Israel in the court would remain an option if Israel continued to build illegal settlements.

They sent a letter of protest to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday.

“A clear message must be sent to Israel that all of its illegal policies must be ceased or that it will be held accountable and will have to bear the consequences if its violations and obstruction of peace efforts,” Palestinian U.N. observer Riyad Mansour wrote.

UN RESOLUTION “ONE-SIDED”

Analysts said Netanyahu hoped to solidify right-wing support by promoting settlements in the run-up to the parliamentary election, even at the risk of diplomatic isolation.

U.S.-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian talks collapsed in 2010 in a dispute over settlement building, and Abbas pressed ahead with his unilateral move at the United Nations over U.S. and Israeli objections and calls to return to the negotiating table.

“Our conflict with the Palestinians will be resolved only through direct negotiations that address the needs of both Israelis and Palestinians,” Netanyahu said in Prague.

“It will not be resolved through one-sided resolutions at the U.N. that ignore Israel's vital needs and undermine the basic foundations of peace.”

The West Bank and East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, is home to some 500,000 Israelis and 2.5 million Palestinians.

Writing by Andrew Roche; Editing by Jon Boyle

Reform movement raps Israeli settlement plans, Palestinian U.N. upgrade


The Union for Reform Judaism criticized Israel for its decision to build new settlement housing and the Palestinians for unilaterally seeking upgraded status at the United Nations.

The newly adopted policy statement was adopted overwhelmingly on Sunday following a debate at the group's board of trustees meeting in St. Petersburg, Fla. More than 200 board members of URJ's Central Conference of American Rabbis and its Zionist wing ARZA attended the meeting.

The resolution condemned the Palestinian Authority “for the unilateral decision to seek upgraded status at the United Nation as counterproductive to the cause of peace ” and expressed “deep concern to those countries that supported the upgraded status, and to those who abstained.” The U.N. General Assembly voted last week to give the Palestinians non-member state observer status.

On Israel's plan to build in the E1 corridor between Jerusalem and the major Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, the resolution said it “would split the Ramallah region off from Bethlehem, effectively cutting the West Bank in two and making a contiguous Palestinian state virtually impossible.” It further said, “Building there makes progress toward peace far more challenging, and is difficult to reconcile with the Government of Israel's stated commitment to a two-state solution.”

The resolution also calls on the Palestinians “to return to the negotiating table immediately without preconditions, as Israel has committed to doing,” and supports “appropriate measures if the Palestinians use their new status at the U.N. to initiate formal action against Israel via the International Criminal Court or other agency.”

It also opposes actions taken as a result of the U.N. vote “that would undercut the prospects for renewing the peace process leading to a two-state solution,” such as reducing financial support to the United Nations or the Palestinian Authority or reducing the currently recognized Palestinian diplomatic presence.

U.S. repeats opposition to new Israeli settlements


The United States on Monday reiterated its opposition to new Israeli settlement activity on West Bank land including in the site known as “E1,” which it said could be especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The United States opposes all unilateral actions, including West Bank settlement activity and housing construction in East Jerusalem, as they complicate efforts to resume direct, bilateral negotiations,” State Department spokeman Mark Toner said in a statement.

“This includes building in the E-1 area as this area is particularly sensitive and construction there would be especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution.”

Israel indicated in Monday it had no plan to backtrack on a settlement expansion plan that has drawn strong international condemnation and includes “preliminary zoning and planning work” for settler housing in the so-called “E1” zone east of Jerusalem. “We have made clear to the Israeli government that such action is contrary to U.S. policy,” Toner said in his statement, which urged both Israel and the Palestinians to cease unilateral actions and take steps to return to direct negotiations.

Israel announced plans to build 3,000 more homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem on Friday, a day after the U.N. General Assembly granted de facto recognition to Palestinian statehood over Israeli and U.S. objections.

Reporting By Andrew Quinn; Editing by Mohammad Zargham

State Dept. warns ‘E-1’ construction would damage two-state prospects


Building in the E-1 area between eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim would be “especially damaging” to efforts to reach a two-state solution, the State Department said.

“The United States opposes all unilateral actions, including West Bank settlement activity and housing construction in East Jerusalem, as they complicate efforts to resume direct, bilateral negotiations, and risk prejudging the outcome of those negotiations,” Mark Toner, the State Department deputy spokesman, said in a statement. “This includes building in the E-1 area, as this area is particularly sensitive and construction there would be especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution.”

The statement Monday came after Israel leaked plans to build in the area, in apparent retaliation for the Palestinians' success last week in winning non-member state status at the United Nations General Assembly.

The first State Department reaction on Friday, by Toner's boss, Victoria Nuland, expressed concern over E-1 while also noting U.S. opposition to enhanced U.N. status for Palestine.

“We’re going to be evenhanded in our concern about any actions that are provocative, any actions that make it harder to get these two parties back to the table,” Nuland said.

Toner's statement on Monday was focused only on the proposed E-1 building, suggesting that the Obama administration would be aggressive in opposing E-1 development.

“We have made clear to the Israeli government that such action is contrary to U.S. policy,” Toner said. “The United States and the international community expect all parties to play a constructive role in efforts to achieve peace. We urge the parties to cease unilateral actions and take concrete steps to return to direct negotiations so all the issues can be discussed and the goal of two states living side by side in peace and security can be realized.”

Israeli governments have long planned such building, which would link the bedroom community of Maale Adumim to Jerusalem, but successive U.S. administrations have opposed it, saying that developing the corridor would cut off Palestinian populations centers from each other in a future Palestinian state.

E-1 was a flashpoint of tensions between the administration of President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.