Official Says the Erection of Barriers in East Jerusalem Was a Mistake

Still on the agenda is a barrier in Isawiyah to prevent stones being thrown at cars travelling on the Jerusalem-Maaleh Adumim highway.

Olivier Fitoussi

The erection on Sunday of a partial barrier between the Palestinian neighborhood of Jabal Mukkaber and the Jewish neighborhood of Armon Hanatziv was the result of a mistake, according to a senior Jerusalem city official.

While a plan for a barrier had been prepared, in cooperation with the city’s police. it was never approved for implementation, according to the official, who asked to remain anonymous. He added that a senior police officer in the city made the decision to put up six sections of wall in order to show the decision-makers how the barrier would look.

The Jerusalem municipality was not consulted on the “sample project,” he said.

In the meantime, the city and the police are planning to erect a barrier in Isawiyah, which overlooks the Jerusalem-Ma’aleh Adumim road, to prevent the throwing rocks on passing vehicles.

As of Monday evening, the government’s stated “breathing closure” policy around East Jerusalem neighborhoods was still in place. Roads entering most of the neighborhoods have been closed off with small concrete barriers and security forces carry out checks on those that haven’t been closed.

The checks on Monday appeared to be more relaxed than they had been the previous day and there were fewer complaints by East Jerusalem residents about long lines and delays at the checkpoints. Some barriers in the neighborhoods of Sur Baher and Umm Tuba were removed to prevent the massive traffic jams they had caused on Sunday.

A senior Jerusalem official told Haaretz on Monday that additional barriers would be removed if the relative calm in the capital continues.

“We want to remove nonproblematic neighborhoods from the closure and will give significant relief measures to neighborhoods whose leaders take responsibility, with the aim of returning to routine as quickly as possibly,” said an associate of Mayor Nir Barkat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Members of Barkat’s inner circle said that the barriers had proved their efficacy, as evidenced by the absence of terror incidents in Jerusalem in the past three days. The barriers, they said, make the statement that the lives of the city’s Jewish inhabitants are important, even if they make life harder in the neighborhoods.

Still under discussion by the municipality is a scheme that would limit movement from predominantly Palestinian East Jerusalem to the western part of the city. According to the plan, exceptions would be made for so-called essential personnel, who would be allowed to pass relatively easily through checkpoints on their way to work.

Many of the city council members present when the scheme was discussed last week expressed support for the proposal, despite the major impact it would likely have on the functioning of the city and on residents of both sides of it, and the possible legal consequences involved in erecting barriers to free movement.

However, Deputy Mayor Tamir Nir of the Yerushalmim faction rejected the plan. “I greatly regret giving up on East Jerusalem in this way,” he said. “I think [its residents] are an important part of this city. They make a decisive contribution to the economy and to its cultural diversity, and I am sorry that extremists are dictating our conduct with regard to most of the Arab residents of the city.”

“It’s a complete fiction,” said council member Yitzhak Pindrus of United Torah Judaism. “Such a plan would not last 10 minutes. All of the drivers, half of the doctors, and 80 percent of the light-rail train conductors come from East Jerusalem. What do they want? To paralyze the city?”

In related news, Palestinian news agencies reported that an elderly woman from Isawiyah died early Monday morning after being delayed at a checkpoint while en route to a hospital. Huda Darwish, 65, was on her way to a hospital due to severe shortness of breath caused, according to family members, by tear gas grenades fired by Israeli police.

Police officers at the temporary barrier erected at the entrance to Isawiyah delayed Darwish and her son Youssef, for 20 to 30 minutes and searched their vehicle. She was declared dead on arrival at the hospital.

Jerusalem police officials refuted the family’s version of events and the hospital confirmed that the woman died of natural causes.