State wants court to delay barrier ruling

If the state has its way, the High Court of Justice ruling on the security barrier around A-Ram will be postponed for anywhere between two and four months, according to a request submitted during a hearing on Sunday. The state's representative, attorney Orit Koren, asked the panel of nine justices headed by Supreme Court President Aharon Barak to postpone ruling on three petitions until the Defense Ministry completes construction of a new terminal near the Kalandiya airport. "Just don't say that the court is responsible for the delays in the construction of the fence," Barak said, a reference to allegations that the High Court is responsible for the fact the building of the barrier has been taking so much time. One of the key purposes of the Kalandiya terminal will be to allow West Bank traffic into Jerusalem from the north, including thousands of Palestinians living in A-Ram who have Jerusalem residency rights and Israeli ID cards. The route of the security barrier cuts off the roughly 60,000 residents of A-Ram from Jerusalem. It has been built down the middle of the Jerusalem-Nablus highway, separating A-Ram to the east, from Atarot to the west. At the southern end of A-Ram and its satellite neighborhood of Dahiyat el-Barid, the wall turns sharply to the northeast, cutting off A-Ram from Neveh Ya'acov to the south. It continues northeastward past Neveh Ya'acov, then plunges southward again, separating Pisgat Ze'ev from the West Bank. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel petitioned the High Court of Justice two years ago, charging that the barrier down the center of the Jerusalem-Nablus highway would adversely affect the lives of the residents of A-Ram, many of whom send their children to school in Jerusalem, work in the city and have family, cultural and religious ties to it. Attorney Muhammad Dahlan petitioned the High Court on behalf of the city of A-Ram, protesting the route of the fence along the Jerusalem-Nablus highway and then south of the neighborhood. Palestinians have disagreed among themselves as to whether Dahiyat el-Barid should be connected to Jerusalem or to A-Ram. Meanwhile, the state's response to the petitioners' charges that the wall would unfairly damage the Palestinians' quality of life is that the terminal linking the West Bank from the north, including A-Ram, will be modern, comfortable and efficient and the passage from the West Bank into Jerusalem will be comfortable. During Sunday's hearing, Koren informed the court that construction of the Kalandiya terminal was behind schedule and asked the justices to wait until it was completed at the end of March before ruling on the petitions. She said they would be able to assess the arguments of the two sides better after they saw the finished terminal for themselves. The petitioners urged the court to hand down their ruling immediately and to take into account that the operation of the terminal as described by the state was completely unrealistic. In response to a question by Barak, Koren said she believed the terminal could be completed by the beginning of February. The court said it would consider the state's request and respond to it at a later date.