Israeli Barrier in Jerusalem Will Cut Off 55,000 Arabs

By GREG MYRE

New York Times

July 10, 2005

JERUSALEM, July 10 - Israel's separation barrier in Jerusalem will cut off 55,000 Palestinian residents from the rest of the city, Israeli officials acknowledged Sunday. Palestinians responded sharply, saying they will face daily complications in reaching jobs, schools and hospitals.

It was the first time the government had said how many tens of thousands of Jerusalem residents would be outside the fence.

Israel's cabinet called for the swift completion of the partly built barrier in Jerusalem, which has been hit by more Palestinian suicide bombings than any other city. The cabinet endorsed a series of measures intended to minimize disruptions, including building a dozen crossing points that would permit Palestinian residents of Jerusalem to move back and forth.

Palestinians demanded that Israel stop building the barrier and said its route divided Palestinian neighborhoods from one another.

"When the Palestinian people see the construction of the wall, the isolation of Jerusalem and the building of more Jewish settlements, how can Palestinians believe there is a promising future," said Nasser al-Kidwa, the Palestinian foreign minister.

The Israeli announcement came a year and a day after the International Court of Justice at The Hague handed down an advisory ruling that said building the separation barrier inside the West Bank violated international law.

Israel rejected the court's ruling, saying the barrier was needed for security, and has pressed ahead with construction, though it has revised the path in some areas in response to Israeli court rulings that Palestinian needs must be taken into account.

The barrier is particularly contentious in Jerusalem, and building has been slowed or halted by court cases.

Israel captured the eastern part of Jerusalem in the 1967 war and regards the entire city as its capital. The barrier mostly follows the eastern boundaries of the city, as established by Israel after the war.

But parts of the barrier will cut into Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and leave about 55,000 Palestinians - about a quarter of the city's Arab population - outside the barrier, Israeli officials said.

Many of the Palestinians work, shop and go to school in other parts of Jerusalem, and will have to cross the barrier daily.

The Israeli government did not give the exact route of the Jerusalem barrier, or say what changes, if any, had been made from earlier plans. But the Palestinian neighborhoods of Kalandia, Akkab, Anata and the Shufat refugee camp would be outside the barrier, Israeli officials said.

"Israel is addressing all the relevant education, health, welfare and public service arrangements in order to enable all the residents of Jerusalem, inside and outside of the fence, to continue their daily lives," said Ehud Olmert, Israel's vice prime minister.

But Yossi Sarid, a left-wing member of Parliament, said the government's decision effectively divided Jerusalem "in an arbitrary and even cruel manner toward both sides."

The Palestinians are seeking East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

The Israeli cabinet set Sept. 1 as a deadline for making final preparations to build the Jerusalem section of the barrier, but did not give a date for completing it.

Palestinian residents of Jerusalem have blue identity cards that allow them to work and move freely throughout Israel, though they are not Israeli citizens. Most Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have not been permitted into Israel in recent years.

Israel says the barrier could be moved or taken down if the two sides negotiate a peace accord that establishes borders. But Palestinians see it as a unilateral Israeli move that effectively sets those boundaries.

Israel says the barrier has played a major role in the sharp decline in suicide bombings. Palestinians carried out more than 50 suicide bombings in 2002, when Israel began building the barrier. So far this year, there have been two suicide bombings that killed Israelis.