Supreme Court hears appeal to stop road slated to traverse capital neighborhood

Residents say the 1.8 kilometer highway will cut Beit Safafa into sections.

Beit Safafa 311 (photo credit: Michael Green)
Beit Safafa 311
(photo credit: Michael Green)
The state and residents of Beit Safafa fought their final battle on Sunday before the Supreme Court over the future of a planned road to go through the east Jerusalem Arab neighborhood.
Residents say the 1.8 kilometer highway will cut their neighborhood into sections.
The battle has gone on for years with the state periodically making partial compromises toward the wishes of the residents, but never enough to gain the residents’ acquiescence.
Residents of Beit Safafa, located in southeast Jerusalem near Gilo, oppose the extension of the Begin Highway towards the Tunnel Road that leads to Gush Etzion because the highway cuts through the middle of their neighborhood and slices it into multiple sections.
The state wants the highway extension to improve overall travel within the city, which it says will also pay large economic dividends.
In February, the Jerusalem District Court ruled in favor of the state to continue building the road. The last resort of the residents to block the project was their appeal to the Supreme Court.
Reflecting that reality, Supreme Court President Asher D. Grunis said that residents narrow their objections to a few specific items which the state might be able to address.
The residents hammered away at two main points. The first was that there needed to be much more extensive overpasses to enable them to travel easily within the neighborhood without getting blocked by the new highway extension.
The second was that there needed to be much more extensive walls separating the highway from the areas it crossed through, since in some areas it is set to run within three meters or less of residents’ houses.
The state said that it had already agreed to 180 meters of walls plus some overpasses to answer the residents’ objections.
It added that the residents’ requests for additional walling and overpasses was simply not physically manageable given the layout of the neighborhood and the road, and that the residents’ maximum requests would costs over an additional NIS 100 million.
Both sides put forth expert reports claiming, alternately, the feasibility of additional walling and overpasses and disparaging the other side’s expert as either not having the correct expertise, looking at the wrong part of the road in his decision, or having a general bias.
The residents also returned to their point before the district court, claiming that the plan had not gone through the proper approval process.
Responding, the state said that a 1990 master plan for the area laid the basis for the highway, an argument accepted by the district court.
The district court had ruled that the residents were aware of the plan. “Not only did the residents understand the nature of the planned road and the period for filing oppositions to the plan, but they also cooperated fully in the licensing process over their years and their opinions were considered,” said the court.
The district court had continued, “The result of this is that a significant part of their requests were accepted, including allocating many resources that were not planned amounting to tens of millions.”
The Supreme Court did not rule or announce a date for rendering its decision.