Sharon is dividing Jerusalem

Editorial

Haaretz

Tamuz 6, 5765

The government's decision Sunday to speed up preparations for completing the "Jerusalem envelope" project exposes anew the attempt to use the security fence for issues that have no connection to the security of the citizens of Israel.

In a statement to the High Court of Justice, the state prosecution did not hide that the government is taking political, and not just security, considerations into account.

Yet, out of the 130 kilometers of the fence in the Jerusalem area, 102 kilometers are on West Bank territory, to a depth of up to 10 kilometers. Only four kilometers are within the municipal border established with the annexation of East Jerusalem. Twelve kilometers effectively remove from the municipal boundaries the areas housing 55,000 Palestinians for whom the government now wants to do the right thing.

The experience of the last 38 years was necessary to teach the decision makers that every attempt to separate East Jerusalem and the territories via a municipal border, roadblocks, administrative injunctions or concrete walls is destined to fail.

Now the government wants to insert a wedge in the heart of Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods, in addition to establishing a physical barrier between 190,000 East Jerusalem residents and their brothers living in Ramallah and Bethlehem.

It's difficult to tell how this particular route will be a burden to the terror organizations, which, according to the prosecution statement to the High Court, "used the direct connection between the Judea and Samaria population and East Jerusalem, and from there to Jerusalem itself, in order to carry out dozens of terror attacks."

After all, the concrete walls, which will further disrupt the close connection with East Jerusalem residents on the social, political and economic front, are likely to increase their hostility toward the State of Israel and their motivation to harm its citizens.

Even if, by some miracle, the government ministries and the municipality manage to complete their preparations for carrying out in 53 days 34 tasks that are meant to minimize the damage to the quality of life of tens of thousands of Jerusalem residents who will be moved outside the fence, it's doubtful whether the move will suffice for the High Court, or blunt the criticism of the international community.

Previous High Court rulings on changing the route of the fence, where the court was persuaded that doing so would not damage security, should have led the government to delay construction in controversial areas of the "Jerusalem envelope," pending a court decision. The Bush administration's resolute opposition to the E1 plan, which effectively annexes Ma'aleh Adumim to Jerusalem, should have prevented the politicians from acting in a way that seems to be an attempt to violate its commitment to refrain from unilateral annexation of West Bank land.

One may find some comfort, and even encouragement, from the decision made by a Likud-led government to use the concrete walls to stray (on both sides) from the municipal border of the city, thereby chipping away at the taboo of "dividing Jerusalem."

Ehud Barak was the first Israeli leader who put the borders of Jerusalem on the political agenda. Ariel Sharon is the first Israeli leader who has proven, in an official government decision, that the borders established hastily and arbitrarily in 1967 are not sacred.