Beit Safafa 311.
(photo credit: Michael Green)
The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the government must present viable
solutions within 30 days to the significant problems a proposed six-lane highway
would pose for residents of the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit
In a petition reviewed by the court, the residents claimed the
partially constructed highway would divide their neighborhood, obstruct many
from traveling freely to pivotal local destinations, and be constructed within
meters of their homes.
Furthermore, the petition argued that the highway
– connecting the tunnel road from Gush Etzion and the Gilo neighborhoods to the
Begin Highway – was planned without the residents’ approval and right to seek
compensatory damages, as stipulated by law.
“We say today, with all due
respect and humility, that deception was used [by the government in the
highway’s construction],” said the petitioner’s attorney, Muhammad Gubara
Wednesday, who delineated numerous ways the highway would cause damage to
neighborhood residents, legally and in practice.
“Shouldn’t such a huge
project that destroys an entire neighborhood at least allow the residents to
object and have their voice heard?” Gubara asked.
Kais Nasset, an
attorney who also represented the residents, criticized the government’s
contention that the court should allow the highway to be constructed because it
is cost-effective, noting the human toll its construction would have on the
“[The government] keeps talking about costs, but we are
talking about human rights,” said Nasset. “It’s saving money or saving the
While the court stopped short of ordering the government
to cease construction of the highway, following a protracted debate Supreme
Court President Asher Grunis, who called the petition a “very unfortunate
situation,” ordered the government to resolve the dispute within 30
“At least at the theoretical level, if the people were looking into
the [highway’s] planning situation, which would be located near their home, at
present they have no choice,” said Grunis, who warned that permits for the
highway could be revoked if an amicable settlement is not reached.
went on to order the government to create a viable timeline that includes
detailed explanations of how each problem facing the Arab-Israeli residents will
be fairly resolved.
“Submit the document without requesting an
extension,” he warned. “If it is not submitted, there are alternatives. You know
what they are.”
Grunis also ruled that the court will reconvene for
further deliberation only after the residents of Beit Safafa are given 30 days
to respond to the government’s proposal.
While Jerusalem City Councillor
Meir Margalit (Meretz), who holds the east Jerusalem portfolio, praised the
court for taking measures to correct the situation, he said he took issue with
its refusal to cease construction of the project altogether.
“I am happy
that the court realizes that there is a problem in the village with this
[highway], but I’m disappointed that the same court has not stopped construction
of it,” he said Wednesday. “I would have expected the court would recognize that
this is more problematic and take a more courageous position to stop the
“Instead,” he continued, “they’re giving the government one
month to [attempt to] ‘minimize’ damages [to the community].”
emphasized that the solution to the impasse is not to minimize damages but,
rather, to cease construction of the highway, because there is no other feasible
“This highway is a classic example of foolish planning,
because they took one of the quietest and most Zionistic villages in Jerusalem
and they are pushing them into the hands of the most radical groups in the
Islamic wing,” he said.
“This will result in damage that will be
impossible to minimize and we will pay an expensive price.”