Benjamin Netanyahu has announced he will move ahead with a highly controversial plan to build settlements east of Jerusalem, in an apparent offering to hardline nationalist voters less than a week before a general election.

Israel’s prime minister said he would reopen the long-dormant project to build 3,500 homes for Jewish settlers in one of the most sensitive areas of the occupied West Bank.

The blueprint for the 12 sq km site, named E1, was drafted in 1995 but has been repeatedly frozen by successive Israeli governments after strong international condemnation. It would expand the large settlement of Maale Adumim to in effect connect it with Jerusalem.

The plan would virtually cut the West Bank into two enclaves and completely encircle Palestinian neighbourhoods in the holy city. It has long been seen as an impassable barrier to any viable future Palestinian state. Upwards of 2,000 Bedouin people living in E1 could also be displaced.

The US presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama both objected to the E1 plan. In 2012, Israel resurrected the idea as a retaliatory measure to the UN recognition of Palestine. That move was halted following a diplomatic crisis in which the UK, France, Sweden, Spain and Denmark summoned the respective Israeli ambassadors to their countries.

/The Guardian/