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Netanyahu Gov't Continues to Divide Jerusalem

Defense Ministry continues work on partition wall in capital -- even though court has yet to decide on its legality.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 4/24/2009, 1:30 PM

A Tel Aviv court is set to decide whether the Defense Ministry may continue erecting the Partition Wall in a manner that will exclude a Jewish neighborhood – but the Ministry is not waiting for the decision, and is going ahead with the work. 

In addition to security and ideological ramifications, work on the wall is very expensive. The Defense Ministry is proceeding with the work, despite the fact that the court may order it undone.

The property in question is located in the Shaar HaMizrach (Gate of the East) neighborhood in northern Jerusalem, between French Hill and Anata. 

Jerusalem land activist Aryeh King, Chairman of the National Lands Fund and the representative of the Jewish owners of the Shaar HaMizrach lands, petitioned the court some two years ago to order construction stopped on the wall.  He says that the route of the partition as planned will leave the Jewish property outside the fence and on the “Arab” side – despite the fact that it is within municipal boundaries and has been owned by Jews for decades.

The court is scheduled to hand down its ruling in approximately a month’s time. It will either order the State to plan a new route for the wall, or allow the work to continue despite the grave ramifications for the Jewish property.

King turned to several MKs, members of the Knesset Forum for Jerusalem, when he discovered the ongoing wall-construction work around the Shaar HaMizrach property. MK Uri Ariel (National Union) responded quickly with an urgent letter to the Cabinet Secretary, entitled, “The Ongoing Policy of Dividing Jerusalem in the French Hill Area.”

MK Ariel wrote:
“I learned today that the Defense Ministry has renewed its work to erect a barrier in the area 400 meters east of the French Hill neighborhood.  These works are being carried out in Jewish-owned area where the Shaar HaMizrach neighborhood is planned to be built.

“Some 8 months ago, I visited the area, together with the owners' representative Mr. Aryeh King. I was shown a Defense Ministry plan to leave tens of Jewish-owned dunams [quarter-acres] on the other side of the wall, and to thus abandon these Jewish lands to the Arabs of nearby Anata.  For over a year, the Olmert government did not allow the owners to reside, plant trees or raise animals there.”

MK Ariel explained that the Defense Ministry’s work is objectionable on three accounts, having to do with legal issues, security, and ideology.

Regarding the first, he wrote: “The issue has been deliberated in a court committee for some two years, and the relevant bodies have promised a final decision within a month.” 

In terms of security, Ariel said that the land-owners have proposed an alternative route for the wall, which is said to be a counter-terrorism measure. “In my opinion, and in the opinion of security experts whose opinions were submitted to the court committee, the proposed route is preferable to the plan designed by the Defense Ministry.”

The MK noted that the current plan was drawn up in 2006, when eight Arab families were living there illegally.  “Now that those families have been legally relocated,” Ariel wrote, “there is no reason for the property to be excluded from the Jewish area.”

Netanyahu Gov't: On Which Side?
From an ideological point of view, Ariel added, “The government of Israel under Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stands for the preservation of Jerusalem’s unity as the capital of the Jewish nation. Construction of a wall in its heart serves the opposite of this concept. The government now has the opportunity to fix the route that was drawn up in 2006 and adapt it to the new situation on the ground, in which Arabs no longer live on the Jewish property.”

Ariel noted that the construction work in the area will cost some 3 million shekels. He asked the Cabinet Secretary to “intervene and find out why the Defense Ministry should not wait for the final decision by the court committee.”

Ariel also asked that the government hold a session to determine its policy on the partition wall in Jerusalem in general and around the Shaar HaMizrach neighborhood in particular.