For two decades, the parcel of land known as E-1 has become a symbol for all sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For the Israeli right, E-1 is a vital neighbourhood in Greater Jerusalem that must be built to stop illegal Arab building around the eternal capital of the Jewish people.
For the Palestinians, and much of the international community, building in E-1 is the nail in the coffin of the two-state solution since it will cut Jerusalem off from the West Bank, rendering a contiguous Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, impossible. There is little substance behind the arguments on either side.
Since the mid-1970s, Israeli governments from the left and right have approved various planning procedures in the 12 sq kilometres between the settlement Maale Adumim, and Mount Scopus in north-east Jerusalem.
This includes Yitzhak Rabin’s government, which signed the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians while at the same time authorising construction plans for E-1 (though not the actual construction).
Each time it seemed that building might go ahead, pressure from the US brought work to a standstill. To this day, there is a functioning police station in E-1, roads, sewage and electricity but no actual homes have ever been built or put on sale.
The arguments on both sides are disingenuous. The area north of Jerusalem towards Ramallah and east to Maale Adumim is interspersed with Israeli and Palestinian neighbourhoods, settlements and villages.
If Israel is really afraid of the Palestinians “encircling” its capital, it is too late to act anyway.
Whether E-1 is built or not, it won’t change the situation drastically either way. But the ongoing dispute over its existence does brilliantly encapsulate the political, legal and physical difficulties of creating a two-state solution.