Jerusalem train - Emil Salman - Aug 24 2010
A test run of the Jerusalem light rail project Aug. 24, 2010 Photo by Emil Salman
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Former Civil Administration head, Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, signed an order expropriating 50 dunams from a West Bank village for the rail line connecting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, just two days before stepping down from his post on November 3.

According to the document, Mordechai was convinced the expropriation was done for public good and that the user of the land would be in a position to compensate the property owners.

Part of the strip of land, 20 dunams, will be used to build a tunnel for the train, and 30 other dunams will serve to prepare the ground for the construction. At the end of the construction, the land will be cleared and return to its original use.

The fact that the rail line connecting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv will pass through the West Bank is causing legal problems. An in-house opinion at the Justice Ministry does not permit the expropriation of land in the West Bank for the benefit of settlers or of Israel without it also benefitting the local population.

Usage of the sewage treatment plant in the settlement of Ofra, for example, which was built on private Palestinian land, was banned by the Supreme Court banned. The Civil Administration is required to link the sewage system up to the nearby Palestinian villages, which refuse to cooperate. As such, the installation remains unused.

In the case of Route 443, which links Modi'in and Jerusalem, the Supreme Court ordered the road to be open for use by the residents of Palestinian villages living on both sides of the road. Initially, when the route was being built, land was expropriated from the villages - a move which was justified by promises that it would be easier for them to access Ramallah via the new road - but they were forbidden from using the road for many years for security reasons.

Many international firms are involved in the construction of the rail line to Jerusalem, and they are under pressure from the left for their work in the territories. In addition to the firms providing the rail cars and the technological know-how, an Italian firm is set to build the tunnel.

The original rail line was to have passed only though Israeli territory.

But, as a result of a drawn-out struggle by environmentalists and residents of Mevasseret Zion, a decision was made to pass a tunnel through the West Bank because this would offer a quicker alternative.