Palestine/Israel News and Information
55,000 Palestinians to be cut off by J’lem fence By Amos Harel
Haaretz Correspondent, and Agencies
Last update – 20:24 10/07/2005
The government decided Sunday on a new route for the separation fence surrounding the Jerusalem area, which will result in some 55,000 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem being cut off from the rest of the city.
The number includes more than 3,000 school children, who will have to pass through the fence in order to get to school.
The decision, which dramatically changes the demographics of Jerusalem, was made despite strident Palestinian objections and some U.S. misgivings. The route not only cuts off tens of thousands of Palestinian residents of the capital, but also places the largest West Bank settlement, Ma’aleh Adumim, with almost 30,000 residents, on the Jerusalem side.
Jerusalem has about 700,000 residents, including some 230,000 Palestinians who carry blue Israeli identity cards that identify them as permanent residents, grant them freedom of movement and make them eligible for Israel’s social services.
The government also set September 1 as the new deadline for completing the construction of the fence, which will leave the Shu’afat refugee camp and the village of Aqab to the east of the fence.
The government also approved a plan to address the daily problems for Jerusalem’s Palestinian population as a result of the new route.
According to the plan, the Jerusalem municipality will make arrangements to ease passage at the fence and to bus students from one side to the other, as well as procedures for administering medical and humanitarian services to those in need.
The government will also encourage East Jerusalem hospitals to open branches beyond the fence. Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will oversee the implementation of the plan.
The ministers approved a supplementary NIS 17 million to the Public Security Ministry budget as well as NIS 8 million for the Jerusalem municipality for providing the new services.
Health Minister Danny Naveh said that the intention is to create convenient passage for the stranded residents and to allow them to receive health services on both sides of the fence without interference.
Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert mentioned the 3,655 school children who will be on the other side of the fence, “for whom we will have to provide daily transportation to their schools.”
The cabinet was told that the Jerusalem fence will include 12 passage gates, and that schools, post offices and National Insurance branches will be built on the other side of the fence to facilitate the residents who will be on the other side.
Amir Cheshin, a former Arab affairs adviser in the Jerusalem municipality, said it would be impossible to implement the government’s plan.
“I don’t know if I should laugh or cry,” Cheshin told Israel Radio. “I don’t see thousands and thousands going through these checkpoints to go to school.”
Minister Without Portfolio Haim Ramon said the gates and crossings in the fence must remain open, and be shut down only in emergency situations. According to Ramon, public services on the far side of the fence must be brought in line as those in Israel.
“we want the changes to remain unfelt,” said Deputy Construction Minister Avraham Ravitz, “so that leaving tens of thousands of Palestinians outside the fence will not cause them to feel isolated and unable to function.”
Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said Israel must stop building the barrier, which he said was bringing “catastrophe” upon the Palestinians.
“The wall is separating between Palestinians and Palestinians,” Erekat said. “We have exerted every possible effort with the Israelis themselves, the Americans, the international community but the only thing that is happening is that the wall is being completed.”