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J-Post: Defense Ministry allows E-1 caravan

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Ma’aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel doesn’t plan to rest on the country’s laurels on its 60th Independence Day. Instead – in a gesture more fitting of settler youth – he is heading to a West Bank hilltop with a protest tent.

Top on his mind is the lack of construction permits, rather than the country’s achievements, the head of the second-largest settlement city told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

So he intends to spend the day fighting for his community’s future by holding office hours under a tent he will set up on the contested hilltop in what is known as E- 1, a mostly empty area of 11.9 square kilometers located within the city’s municipal boundaries but on the opposite side of the highway from its developed sections.

Palestinians and the US have long opposed construction in that hilltop area, saying it would disrupt the contiguity of a future Palestinian state.

E-1 is bordered by Jerusalem’s French Hill neighborhood to the west, Abu Dis to the southwest, Kedar to the south, the rest of Ma’aleh Adumim to the east and Almon to the north.

Pledges by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other officials that Ma’aleh Adumim is an integral part of Israel have not assuaged Kashriel’s fear that American policy and pressure will prevail in the end.

‘On the day that Israel is celebrating its independence, we want to remind people that our independence is total and we are not under the policy of [US Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice,’ he said. ‘We want to show that E-1 is part of Ma’aleh Adumim,’ Continued growth of Ma’aleh Adumim can only happen there, he said. The government’s refusal to allow construction there will choke the city, Kashriel said.

On Hanukka, he shied away from a protest march held in E-1 by activists and city residents who tried but failed to establish an unauthorized outpost there.

But as the months dragged on with no resolution in sight, Kashriel, who previously relied on lobbying, has now opened a new phase of his campaign for E-1, also known as Mevaseret Adumim.

Moves to open a new Judea and Samaria Police Headquarters on the site have been more successful. The opening of the already-completed station was postponed last month, but the police have been slowly moving in and the station is expected to be operational within a few weeks.