Sharon´s Cabinet: Fence to Divide Jerusalem

The Sharon-led Cabinet Sunday approved dividing Jerusalem physically. The security fence will put 55,000 Jerusalem Arabs outside of the barrier but there will be free passage.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, | updated: 21:36

The cabinet did not explain why it is allowing the fence to cut through the united capital within Jerusalem's borders. Dividing the city will leave one-quarter of Jerusalem's Arabs psychologically linked to Samaria while receiving citizens' services from Jerusalem. It also will leave Prime Minister Ariel Sharon open to charges that he has gone back on his promise never to divide the capital.

The American public was informed by the Associated Press that one effect of the cabinet decision will be to leave "55,000 residents, on the West Bank side, while including the largest Jewish West Bank settlement, Ma'aleh Adumim with close to 30,000 people, on the Jerusalem side." That analysis implies that the government objective is to increase the percentage of Jews in Jerusalem by annexing Ma'aleh Adumim and ceding the partitioned Arab areas.

Arabs are incensed at the decision, which will require more than 3,000 school children to pass through the fence to go back and forth to school. Amir Chesin, a former Arab affairs adviser for the city of Jerusalem, insisted that the plan will not be implemented. "I don't know if I should laugh or cry. I don't see thousands and thousands going through these checkpoints to go to school," he said.

Saeb Erakat, the chief PA negotiator with Israel, stated that the Cabinet decision "is a very critical development which has the potential to destroy the entire peace process."

The Associated Press quoted one family from Aqab, a large neighborhood which the wall will separate from the capital, as saying it might emigrate to the United States if the roadblocks will delay their travel to the capital where they have a thriving travel business and many friends.

Several ministers, including Labor Minister Without Portfolio Haim Ramon, declared that checkpoint gates in the fence, which are supposed to keep terrorists out of the capital, must be kept open except for emergency security situations. None of the ministers explained how the "open gate" policy would work against terrorists.

Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was named responsible for establishing government services, including hospitals and schools, on the other side of the fence, which will be a tall concrete wall in the area of Aqab.

Separating the Arabs from Jerusalem will encourage a closer relationship between them and Arabs in Samaria, which the Palestinian Authority (PA) wants to make part of a new Arab state with eastern Jerusalem as its capital. Dividing the city with a fence will make it easier for the PA to argue that eastern Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, is not part of Israel.

United Torah Judaism (UTJ) MK Avraham Ravitz, who serves as Deputy Construction Minister, reasoned that increasing services for the partitioned Arabs "will not cause them to feel isolation and inability to function."

Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky said the city will set up a special department to deal with the separated Arabs and also ensure that the school children will not have "to undergo a security check every morning on their way to school."