Analysis Fencing in the Fence

For quite some time now, the disputes surrounding the separation fence have not been ones of principle with regard to the very construction of the barrier, but rather over its route.

The Palestinian public at large doesn't want the fence along any route whatsoever, and neither is the Palestinian Authority very enthusiastic, to put it mildly, about the principle of erecting walls and fences between Israel and the territories.

For some 26 years (1967-1993), there were no fences and not a single roadblock between Rafah and Jenin, and the residents of the territories were able to move totally free throughout the country. They took advantage of this for the purpose of employment and commerce. They spent time at the country's vacation sites and beaches, visited relatives, and made Israeli friends. And on the backdrop of this came the official Palestinian position, which says: Israel has the right to build fences and walls anywhere it chooses - but only within the borders of the state.

In other words, if the government of Israel wishes to build a separation fence, will it please do so in its own territory, and not in any way or form on Palestinian land, or at the expense of the Arab residents.

The State of Israel, of course, does not accept this approach, and neither does the High Court of Justice, which ruled yesterday that the State of Israel has the right to build a security fence - but that security considerations must also take into account what affect the fence has on the Palestinian public.

In this instance, in the area between Maccabim and Givat Ze'ev, construction of the fence will cause much suffering to the Palestinian population.

At stake, in the main, are eight villages that the fence turns into something of an enclave and affects some 42,000 dunams of their land. The problem in this area arose with the construction of Road 443, which links Modi'in with north Jerusalem and the Begin Highway.

Road 443 was built to the north of - and parallel to - what was once known as the Jerusalem corridor, along the route of an ancient thoroughfare that led to Jerusalem through Upper Beit Horon. For the entire length of the road to be within the boundaries of the fence - together with the adjacent settlements of Beit Horon, Nili, Kiryat Sefer, and through to Givat Ze'ev and Givon - there is a need to isolate or annex to Israel those villages south of the road.

These villages are home to some 35,000 people and are linked for the most part to the Ramallah district, where many of the residents work and study, and from where they get important services such as health and welfare.

The defense establishment will now have to do some engineering juggling to meet the court's stipulations, and change the route of the fence such that the residents of these villages will have free access to their lands and maintain their vital link with Ramallah.

For those who are familiar with the area, this will be like trying to turn a circle into a square, but the significance of the ruling is even greater, because it touches on what will happen now with other segments of the fence, first and foremost in the area of the Jerusalem envelope.

The route of the fence (and in many cases, the wall) currently under construction in and around the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem poses the exact same problem. The route of the fence and wall in these neighborhoods severely prejudices the fabric of life of hundreds of thousands of residents.

Around Jerusalem, it is not a matter of damage to agricultural land, but mainly the freedom of access of the Arabs to places of employment, schools, clinics and hospitals, and various other essential services.

The problems and disruptions that arose with the building of the fence in Samaria, the Sharon area and also along Road 443 are nothing compared to what can be expected around Jerusalem.