security fence 298 88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The battle over the size of the Ma'aleh Adumim bloc was joined on Monday, when the High Court of Justice began hearing petitions by Palestinian residents of Suahra a-Sharqiya and Abu Dis against the route of the separation barrier linking the satellite city and seven small settlements to Jerusalem.
The lawyer for the petitioners, Shlomo Lecker, charged that the army and the Ministry of Defense determined the route of the barrier around Ma'aleh Adumim for political rather than security reasons. Col. (Res.) Danny Tirza, the architect of the barrier, argued that the route was determined by security considerations and added that any other route would also cause severe environmental damage to the Judean desert.
Police Maj.-Gen. (Ret.) Shaul Givoli, the director-general of the Council for Peace and Security, told the court, "we have examined the government's plan and cannot understand why it chose this route. It has used security arguments to [conceal] other considerations."
Residents of Suahra a-Sharqiya and Abu-Dis charged that the fence cut them off from land on the eastern side of the barrier. They argued that since the security wall around "greater Jerusalem" had already severed their ties with the city, which had provided jobs, schools, stores and other services, they needed their lands to the east to provide these services and fulfill future housing needs. According to the petition, 41 percent of the land belong to Abu Dis is located east of the Ma'aleh Adumim barrier.
The barrier, which begins near the Jerusalem suburb of El-Azariya, plunges south-east towards Suahra a-Sharqiya, then northeast past the Jewish settlement of Kedar and around the industrial area of Mishor Adumim to the settlement of Alon, and from there south-west in a straight line to the Palestinian village of Anata interrupted by a bulge to include the Jewish settlement of Almon within its confines.
According to the petitioners, only 8,000 of the 70,000 dunams of land included in the Ma'aleh Adumim enclave contain Jewish housing.
The rest of the land is unoccupied except for 1,500 Beduins.
Supreme Court President Aharon Barak asked Lecker to explain why he believed the Ma'aleh Adumim barrier route was motivated by politics rather than security. Lecker replied that the barrier went out of its way to include an offshoot of the Kedar settlement in which two families lived, that Kedar itself had only 60 families and could be protected by a fence around the community without designing the barrier to go so far out of the way that would have been sufficient to protect Ma'aleh Adumim. He added that the geographical area of the Ma'aleh Adumim outline planning scheme was bigger than that of Tel Aviv, while the barrier itself was another two or three kilometers beyond the settlement's municipal boundaries.
The Council for Peace and Security presented its own proposal for a route around Ma'aleh Adumim and Mishor Adumim. The proposal calls for a barrier of 24 kilometers instead of the government's 38, and leaves thousands of dunams of land outside the enclave and accessible to the Palestinians. "If we can achieve X with an outlay of Y, why should we spend 4Y to achieve the same thing?" Col. (Res.) Shaul Arieli asked the court.