Israeli Court Approves Highway Bisecting Arab Neighborhood in Jerusalem

Judge rejects residents' petition against road planned 23 years ago that will split Beit Safafa; in Jewish areas of the city, the road runs adjacent to the neighborhoods rather than through them.

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

Jerusalem District Court Judge Nava Ben-Or has rejected a petition by residents of southern Jerusalem against a highway that will split their pastoral Arab neighborhood in two.

The road, a continuation of Begin Highway, will bisect Jerusalem's Beit Safafa neighborhood, under plans approved 23 years ago. In Jewish areas of the city, the road runs adjacent to the neighborhoods rather than through them.

About two months ago, residents filed an administrative petition against the municipality on the grounds that the building permits for the road were issued illegally. Representing residents is attorney Kais Nasser of Yedid, The Association for Community Empowerment.

According to the petition, the plans for the road, approved in 1999, do not include detailed planning and residents were not given the opportunity to object or receive compensation.

The judge ruled that the permits were issued properly and that the residents should have raised their objections 23 years ago.

The judge also rejected attorney Nasser’s claim that residents of Jewish neighborhoods received beneficial treatment.

Not all plans are the same, the judge ruled. “As long as the plan abides by the requirements of the law, the fact that other plans include additional instructions and appendices does not, in itself, negate its validity and legality,” Judge Ben-Or wrote.

Judge Ben-Or added that residents of Beit Safafa fully understood the plans and were involved in long negotiations with the municipality, the Transportation Ministry and the Moriah Jerusalem Development Company, which is building the road.

Ben-Or agreed with the municipality that the petition was submitted far too late should therefore be rejected.

Residents of Beit Safafa say they intend to put up a fight take further legal steps against the municipality.

In a demonstration against the road on Sunday, three residents of Beit Safafa were detained for questioning. According to the municipality, earthmoving machinery at the site was vandalized during the demonstration.

The Jerusalem municipality said it was pleased with the ruling, and added that “the dialogue with the inhabitants and the community administration will continue – including improvements to the access roads in the village and dealing with the public space with the aim of providing an answer to the inhabitants’ needs."

"The municipality will not countenance acts of violence and vandalism carried out in recent days along the route of the road works and is calling upon the inhabitants to respect the court’s ruling," the municipality added.

A resident of East Jerusalem’s Beit Safafa overlooking the highway construction works.Credit: Emil Salman

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