Sharon orders illegal sections of fence rerouted

02:59 02/07/2004 By Aluf Benn, Yuval Yoaz and Arnon Regular Prime Minister Ariel Sharon yesterday ordered the defense establishment to reroute the 30-kilometer stretch of the separation fence that the High Court of Justice declared illegal Wednesday, and to examine whether other parts of the fence also should be rerouted in light of the ruling. Meanwhile, the court issued an interim injunction yesterday ordering the Defense Ministry to halt work on another section of the fence, near the Har Homa neighborhood in southeastern Jerusalem. The injunction was issued in response to a new petition filed against that section. Wednesday’s ruling related exclusively to a 40-kilometer stretch of fence northwest of Jerusalem, of which it declared 30 kilometers to be illegal. But the reason for this decision – that this section of the fence caused grave harm to the livelihood and freedom of movement of local Palestinians – could be used to disallow other sections of the fence as well. Therefore, Sharon ordered the defense establishment, in conjunction with the Justice Ministry, to review the fence’s entire route and make changes where necessary in an effort to forestall further rulings of this nature.

„We need to simplify things and not create… closed-off Palestinian enclaves, since we have not succeeded in creating convenient conditions for movement through the fence,” Sharon said at a meeting on the subject last night with Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Justice Minister Yosef Lapid and senior defense establishment and Justice Ministry officials. Sharon said that in areas where there are no legal problems with the route, construction work should begin „immediately, at full speed.” As for the rest, he continued, „in areas where we cannot compromise on security, don’t make concessions. But in places where we can, we need to do as little damage as possible to the Palestinians’ way of life, and we can move [the fence] a little closer to the Green Line.” Regarding the specific section vetoed by the court Wednesday, Sharon stressed that any new route must still protect Highway 443, the Modi’in-Jerusalem road, from the north. There have been several fatal shooting attacks on this highway since the intifada began. Earlier, Mofaz met with senior defense officials and ordered them to prepare several alternative routes for that section of the fence. Once an alternative is chosen, it will be presented to the cabinet for approval. The new route is expected to pass easily, thanks to the recent departure of several of the cabinet’s most right-wing members. Sharon, Mofaz and Lapid all rejected the idea of enacting a law to overrule the court and enable the fence to be built along its original route. „Everyone must understand that there is a ruling, and it must be obeyed,” Sharon said. The idea of a special law is supported by several cabinet ministers, including Dan Naveh, Uzi Landau, Natan Sharansky and Zevulun Orlev, and they are expected to propose it at Sunday’s cabinet meeting. However, the proposal is unlikely to pass. Defense Ministry Director-General Amos Yaron stressed that the fence „is proving itself – there is less terror.” The decline in terror, he added, is precisely why the court felt free to give greater weight to the Palestinians’ quality of life. Mofaz charged that one reason the existing humanitarian arrangements have failed is that the Finance Ministry has not transferred sufficient funds to implement them. Yaron agreed, charging: „The finance minister sent us to get money from the Americans.” New injunction The new injunction issued by the court yesterday, which also barred the state from expelling residents of Kafr Nu’aman from their homes on the grounds that they are residing in Israel illegally, was issued in response to a petition by 66 residents of the tiny village of some 25 houses and 200 residents that is located about two kilometers from Har Homa. The petitioners argued that the fence in that area will impair their property rights and access to jobs and schools. The residents, most of whom do not have Jerusalem residency cards, want the fence moved to leave their village on the Palestinian side, thereby ensuring continued access to Beit Sahour and Bethlehem. Alternatively, should the route not be changed, they want to be granted special status allowing them to move freely between jobs and schools in the West Bank and their homes in Jerusalem. Nu’aman lies within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries, and since the fence in this area is slated to follow the municipal border, the planned route would leave the village on the Israeli side. However, its residents always have been considered residents of the territories rather than of East Jerusalem, and therefore, they obtain services from West Bank cities like Bethlehem rather than from Jerusalem. Since the early 1990s, the Interior Ministry and Jerusalem municipality have been trying to expel the residents from Jerusalem to the West Bank. In 1995, the residents countered with a petition demanding they be granted Israeli residency, which would enable them to remain in their homes, but it was refused, as were subsequent petitions on the issue. When preparations for building the fence in this area began, the current petition charged, Israeli efforts to get the residents to leave intensified: They have suffered numerous raids by the army and Border Police, and many residents have been arrested and warned to leave the area.