(photo credit: AP [file])
A panel of seven High Court justices headed by retired Supreme Court President Aharon Barak on Wednesday rejected three petitions objecting to the route of the security barrier separating A-Ram from Jerusalem.
The barrier includes a two-and-a-half kilometer-long, six-meter high concrete wall running down the middle of the Jerusalem-Nablus highway.
"We did not find cause for intervening in the state's considerations," wrote Barak. "The state properly balanced all the factors that had to be taken into account. It is therefore justified in building the fence along its current route."
Most of the barrier around A-Ram has already been built, but the state had promised that if the court accepted the petitions, it would dismantle it.
In reaching its decision, the court unanimously rejected a petition submitted by The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Bimkom - Planners for Planning Rights and a group of Palestinians living or working in A-Ram, who protested against the wall erected along Highway 60. It also voted unanimously to reject a petition filed by A-Ram local council head Sirhan Salaimeh protesting the same segment and another part of the barrier running along the southeastern part of the town and heading towards the Jewish settlement of Adam.
By eight votes to one, the court also rejected a third petition by residents of Dahyat el-Barid, a neighborhood of 18,000 residents in the southern part of A-Ram. The petitioners said they wanted to continue to be part of A-Ram and the West Bank.
Justice Miriam Na'or cast the dissenting vote in this petition, arguing that the barrier should run along the Jerusalem municipal boundary rather than bisect A-Ram and include a neighborhood which was not within the official city limits. The other justices included Barak, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, Ayalah Procaccia, Edmond Levy, Asher Grunis, and Esther Hayut.
The most controversial part of the petitions focused on the wall running along Highway 60, on the section of the road which runs from Jerusalem to Ramallah and Nablus. The petitioners did not offer an alternative route, insisting instead that no wall be built and that the 58,000 residents of A-Ram, including a large number of Palestinians holding Israeli residency status, have direct access to Jerusalem, including the neighborhoods of Shuafat and Beit Hanina, and Bir Naballah, located in a West Bank enclave west of Highway 45 (the extension of Jerusalem's Begin Expressway).
Barak pointed out that the route of the western segment of the barrier along Highway 60 was located inside Israeli territory and therefore the government was empowered to build that part of the barrier. As for the segments of the barrier inside the West Bank, the military commander was authorized to build it since it was meant to protect Israelis from terrorist attacks.
Barak acknowledged that the separation barrier interfered with the quality of life and the freedom of movement of the residents of A-Ram, and was therefore illegal unless built for a proper reason, but he asserted that it had been. "Its aim is proper if it is done for military (not political) needs in order to protect the lives of residents of the territories or Israel," wrote Barak. "The barrier fulfills this condition. It is meant to protect the lives of Israeli residents in general and Jerusalem residents in particular from terrorist operations out of Judea and Samaria." He also found that there was no alternative route that was better than the one proposed by the army.
Barak also acknowledged that many Palestinians would have to go many kilometers out of the way, and spend much more time on the road by entering Jerusalem via the Kalandiya terminal at the northern end of the city. Nevertheless, the state had taken steps to speed up the security checks at the terminal and provide transportation for children from A-Ram to schools in the West Bank and back. If these arrangements did not work well, the petitioners could return to the High Court for remedy, Barak added. For the time being, however, the concrete wall and the rest of the barrier around A-Ram will stand.