EU's Solana slams Jerusalem fence; PA: It makes pullout useless

By News Agencies

Haaretz

Tamuz 4, 5765

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana criticized Israel on Monday for the fence it is building around Jerusalem, and Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said it made a farce of efforts to restart the peace process.

Israel faced new pressure over the fence a day after the cabinet approved final details of the 60-kilometer fence, which is halfway built and will eventually cut off some 55,000 Arab residents in four neighborhoods from their city, while including some 30,000 Jewish West Bank settlers on the Jerusalem side.

Meanwhile, Minister Haim Ramon (Labor) said Monday the Jerusalem fence is meant to ensure a Jewish majority in the capital as well as keep out terrorists, contradicting government statements that it is solely a temporary security measure.

"I want to point out that in Jerusalem alone close to 250 people have been murdered during the intifada, most of them in suicide attacks. The fence was born, first and foremost, to prevent them from continuing to murder us," Ramon told Israel Radio. He added that the fence "also makes [Jerusalem] more Jewish."

Solana, arriving for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, said the EU was against the Jerusalem segment for the same reason it opposed the larger West Bank separation fence - because it cuts into the West Bank.

"We think that Israel has the right to defend itself, but we think that the fence which will stand outside the territory of Israel is not legally proper and it creates also humanitarian problems," he told reporters in Jerusalem.

He said the Jerusalem fence would also have a symbolic effect, as the city is holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Qureia responded harshly to Sunday's cabinet decision, calling the Jerusalem fence "theft in broad daylight" of land Palestinians seek for the capital of their future state.

"This decision makes a farce of any talk about peace and turns the Gaza withdrawal into a useless initiative," he said in a statement, referring to Israel's planned evacuation of all 21 Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip starting in mid-August.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa called for stepped-up protests against construction of the barrier.

Israeli officials said the Jerusalem segment would separate one-fifth of Jerusalem's Palestinian residents but that crossing points would be set up to ease their movement.

Palestinian officials put the actual number of Palestinians to be cut off from jobs, schools and hospitals in Jerusalem and surrounding areas at about 100,000.