55,000 Palestinians to be cut off by Jerusalem fence

By Amos Harel


Tamuz 3, 5765

The separation fence surrounding the Jerusalem area will cut off some 55,000 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem from the rest of the city, the government ministers decided during the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday.

The number includes more 3,000 school children, who will have to pass through the fence in order to get to school.

The government also decided on 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 approved a plan to address the "daily life" issues of Jerusalem's Palestinian population who will be affected by the separation fence.

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 ministers were 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, in order to alleviate the life situation of the residents caught behind it.

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 this side of the fence must be brought to the same level as on the other side.

Deputy Construction Minister Avraham Ravitz said "we want the changes to remain unfelt, so that leaving tens of thousands of Palestinians outside the fence will not cause them to feel isolation and inability to function."