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Israel Nixes Zoom-Only Settlement Hearing Amid Protests from Palestinian Objectors

The Israeli Defense Ministry’s governing body in the West Bank, known as the Civil Administration, reversed on Sunday a last-minute decision to move to the Zoom platform a hearing on West Bank building plans after protests by Palestinians. The hearing would discuss plans for construction in E1, a 5-square-mile area between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim. Among the Palestinians who live in the area are a few hundred who reside in unrecognized and illegally constructed Bedouin encampments, who could face expulsion. They and others who have only limited access to electricity and internet infrastructure would be prevented from attending an online-only meeting and expressing their objections, lawyers for the Palestinians and representatives of human rights organizations argued. Many Palestinians object to the plan, which would further entrench Israel’s hold on the West Bank while practically cutting off Samaria, the northern portion of the West Bank, from Judea, the southern portion, and isolating east Jerusalem – which the Palestinians aspire to make the capital of a future Palestinian state – from the West Bank. This could significantly complicate Palestinian travel between the regions and would be a further blow to the idea of a viable two-state solution. According to an Israeli Planning Administration directive, a hearing may only be held online with the consent of the parties involved, including those who object to any plans or motions being discussed at the hearing.