Jerusalem Municipality Asks IDF to Take Responsibility for Residents Who Live East of the Separation Fence

Better administration is needed for areas neglected by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

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The Jerusalem municipality director-general has asked the IDF to take responsibility for handling civilian matters pertaining to Jerusalem residents east of the separation fence.

The director-general, Yossi Heiman, made this request at a municipality meeting three weeks ago, saying the Israel Defense Forces' Civil Administration could increase its responsibilities.

The municipality wants the IDF to take responsibility for monitoring construction and providing sanitation services. The meeting concluded with a decision to form a committee that will present a plan to the government.

Around 90,000 East Jerusalem residents live on the other side of the separation fence. After the fence started going up over a decade ago, a number of neighborhoods, including the Shoafat refugee camp and Kafr Aqab, morphed from Jerusalem neighborhoods into regions of anarchy lacking regular municipal services.

Under agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian side, including its security services, is not allowed to operate in these areas, but the Israeli authorities also stay away due to security fears. Thus residents are ignored by Israel and the PA, and succumb to the whims and intimidation of local crime gangs.

No police force operates in these areas, nor is there any monitoring of construction. As a result, in recent years, a number of large, half-built structures have sprung up in these areas. Garbage is not collected and roads are not repaired.

For many weeks, a maternity hospital in Kafr Aqab has operated without telephone service, and these neighborhoods suffer dangerously from uncertain water supplies.

Six months ago, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announced that areas on the other side of the fence should be put under the authority of the Civil Administration. In exchange, Barkat said, the municipality would provide services to residents who live west of the fence but who do not technically live in the Jerusalem municipality.

Barkat said his policy recommendation would not require border adjustments; instead, municipality and civil administration officials would put together a plan to divide responsibility in providing services to residents on both sides of the fence.

The municipality says there is no plan to adjust the city's borders.

Recently, the IDF has given permission to Palestinian traffic policemen to direct traffic east of the fence during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. This permission particularly applies to Qalandiyah Square, an important crossing point for Palestinians from Ramallah and elsewhere.

The square is crowded throughout the year due to an IDF checkpoint, but the congestion is particularly severe during Ramadan as worshippers try to get to the Temple Mount in central Jerusalem.

"The meeting in question was a regular discussion; such meetings are continually held to improve coordination and cooperation between the municipality and the Civil Administration," the municipality said.

"They are held to strengthen sovereignty and improve the quality of services for residents who live on the other side of the fence, along with residents who live within the fence, and some who are not residents of the city."

At the meeting three weeks ago, municipality officials discussed the difficulties providing services to city residents who live on the other side of the separation fence.

Present at the meeting were the IDF coordinator of government activities in the territories, Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, and the head of the Civil Administration, Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz.

Jerusalem’s A-Ram neighborhood.Credit: Emil Salman



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