Israel's High Court Rejects Arab Village's Bid to Stop Construction of Highway

Justices say there is more proof that the state would suffer if construction were delayed.

The High Court of Justice Wednesday rejected a petition by the residents of the Arab village of Beit Safafa to order work stopped on a highway that will cut through the community.

Residents of Beit Safafa, which is within Jerusalem's city limits, say the dust and noise from the work on the six-lane road is damaging their quality of life. The artery will connect the Begin Highway to the road to Gush Etzion.

The High Court, however, ordered the Jerusalem District Court to quickly hear an appeal already under way to stop the highway.

Justice Edna Arbel ruled that the residents had not proved that the construction work was damaging the village, but that there would be clear damage to the state if construction were delayed. The Jerusalem municipality says the road will improve traffic in the capital and access to its southern neighborhoods.

Work began on the road a few months ago, with bulldozers working non-stop only a few meters from people's homes. The residents also say that if work continues, the authorities will stop considering alternatives. One of these is to put a roof over much of the highway to reduce its impact on Beit Safafa.

“Anyone who comes to Beit Safafa can immediately see the highway's destructive impact; therefore Justice Arbel’s ruling is very disappointing,” said the group Ir Amim, which works for Jewish-Arab equality in Jerusalem.

Ir Amim said the highway would serve “the political vision of expanding the settlements of Gush Etzion.”

Olivier Fitoussi