Despite Court Rulings, Fence Construction Work Continues Apace

Despite the ruling at the Hague, and last week's High Court of Justice ruling, the construction work on the separation wall on the main Jerusalem-Ramallah road is continuing in the neighborhood.

"Our work here is done," says Samir Keresh, head of the East Jerusalem engineers' association in the protest tent in the Al-Ram neighbourhood in north Jerusalem. But despite the ruling at the Hague, and last week's High Court of Justice ruling, the construction work on the separation wall on the main Jerusalem-Ramallah road is continuing in the neighborhood.

The tent in Al-Ram was put up a week ago, concentrating most of the Palestinian Authority's protest activities in anticipation of the International Court in The Hague's ruling on Friday. Ministers, Legislative Council members, religious figures, Fatah activists and residents visited the tent and the neighborhood. Even the Palestinian government, which usually convenes in Ramallah, held a special session in Al-Ram last week in solidarity, and to raise the struggle's profile before the court ruling.

The court ruled that the fence is not legal, that parts already built must be dismantled and that those injured by it must be compensated. Less than 24 hours after the ruling the protest tent at Al-Ram was taken down. A trickle of visitors still arrives but there is no trace of the protest vigils, the politicians and the cameras. "The struggle here is over. The fight will continue in other ways, by diplomatic and media means," says Keresh apologetically. "The tent achieved its purpose of attracting attention to the Hague decision."

Other Palestinians, including legal experts, say the court dealt the fence and Israel a severe blow and the Palestinians can now rest on their laurels.

Taking down the tent reflects the huge gap between the ruling in The Hague and the situation on the ground. The clearer the court's statement is, the more sharply it is contradicted by reality. Despite the ruling of both the Israeli High Court of Justice and The Hague, the work on the fence in Jerusalem is continuing almost as usual. The separation wall's route passes 20 meters away from the tent, in the middle of the Jerusalem-Ramallah road. The High Court allowed the construction of the wall's foundation to continue, but forbade laying the concrete slabs on it.

Yesterday the bulldozers were not working, but in the last few days they "razed" the asphalt off the road's western lane and turned it into a one-lane road, on which only traffic from Jerusalem to Ramallah is allowed. For a week cars bound for Jerusalem from Ramallah are not being allowed to travel on this road and are instead forced to enter Al-Ram's winding alleys to reach the northern road block. Al-Ram, which the wall threatens to cut off from Jerusalem, abruptly turned into a huge traffic jam. Passing from one side of it to another - a distance of about three kilometers - yesterday took 30 to 45 minutes.

After the wall is built very few cars are expected to reach the neighborhood and many of its residents are expected to move away. Those with Jerusalem identity cards will move into the city, while Palestinian residents will move to Ramallah, to avoid getting stuck in the maze of barricades, fences and security checks in the north of the city.

Beyond Al-Ram, bulldozers have started building the fence route north east of the Neveh Ya'akov neighborhood. The wall will separate the neighborhood from the settlements Adam and Geve Binyamin to the northeast of it. A deep trench is to be built around five Arab villages - Bit Naballah, Aljib, Qalandiyah, Jedaydah and Beit Hanina - isolating them and their 15,000 inhabitants from the outside world.

The road to Ramallah will also be blocked, and the only access to it will be through an underground pass. The road round Qalandiyah to Givat Zeev has robbed a considerable part of Bit Naballah's lands. "I heard the ruling of the court in The Hague, but I don't think Israel's plans are going to change," says Bir Naballah's 70-year old council head, Haj Tawfik al-Naballi.