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State agrees to reroute security barrier
DAN IZENBERG and TOVAH LAZAROFF
08/21/2008
Decision to redraw plans near Ma'aleh Adumim comes in response to Arab residents' appeals to High Court.
The state will shift the route of the security barrier in the Judean Desert southeast of Jerusalem so that 4,000 dunams (400 hectares) of the roughly 70,000 (7,000 hectares) dunams of West Bank land that was to be located on the "Israeli side" of the structure will now be on the other side, officials informed the High Court of Justice on Thursday. At the same time, the state made clear that the settlement of Kedar south of Ma'aleh Adumim will remain on the Israeli side of the barrier, in accordance with the original route. According to the state, the barrier section is aimed at protecting Ma'aleh Adumim; Kedar is 1.5 km. south of the city and 5 km. from its nearest entrance. Another section of the barrier is 15 km. from Ma'aleh Adumim. Communities such as Kfar Adumim situated to the north of Ma'aleh Adumim will not be impacted by the change in the barrier route. The state's brief to the court came in response to two petitions filed in 2005 and 2006 by residents of Abu Dis and Suahra e-Sharkiya, Palestinian communities located outside the barrier. The petitioners, represented by Jerusalem attorney Shlomo Lecker, said the route of the barrier placed 6,000 dunams of their agricultural land on the Israeli side, which would make it difficult, if not impossible, to cultivate it. Lecker told The Jerusalem Post that the government's decision constituted a "local" victory, in that all of the land being restored to the two Palestinian communities was agricultural land. Nevertheless, Lecker said he would not withdraw the petitions because some of the land belonging to his clients was located between Kedar and Ma'aleh Adumim. He said he continued to insist that the barrier be rerouted so that it would pass between Ma'aleh Adumim and Kedar, leaving Kedar on the West Bank side. According to Lecker, Kedar, which has about 800 people living in one- and two-story homes, could be protected by a fence surrounding the settlement, as had been done in other cases. But although Lecker's petitions deal with the injury specifically inflicted on his clients by the barrier route, they also accuse the state of routing the barrier so that Israel effectively annexes a much larger area of the West Bank than is required to protect Ma'aleh Adumim. "It is completely obvious that the Ma'aleh Adumim barrier has no security significance," Lecker wrote. "On the contrary, the construction of the barrier may undermine and even unravel the delicate texture of neighborly relations devoid of basic hatred that have been created over the years in the area. The Ma'aleh Adumim barrier has one single aim in mind: the de facto annexation of Ma'aleh Adumim and a significant part of the Judean Desert. "The size of the barrier and the territory that it includes, the distance of the barrier route from Jewish settlements, the inclusion of tens of thousands of dunams of pasture, Palestinian agricultural land, nature reserves and barren land within the barrier testify like a thousand witnesses to the true aim of the barrier, an aim that is absolutely unacceptable from the point of international and local law. It is also absolutely unacceptable to use military orders allegedly issued for security reasons to achieve political objectives." Ma'aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel said that he planned to instruct the city's attorney, Gil Rogen, on Sunday to petition the High Court against the state's decision and that he would fight against it by every means possible. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did not have the authority to make such a fateful decision for the city given that he was likely to be in office for only one more month, Kashriel said. "The land, which can contain 1,000 to 1,500 apartment units, is part of the city's building plans that have preliminary approval," he added. Kashriel urged the court not to decide on the matter, but to wait for a new government to come to power and then seek its opinion.
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