The Israeli government has revealed its plans for the route of the separation barrier it is building around Jerusalem. It will cut East Jerusalem and the largest Israeli settlement in the West Bank off from the rest of the West Bank, and will divide Bethlehem.
Christian Aid’s Palestinian and Israeli partners say the route will jeopardise peace talks and argue that the decision amounts to a unilateral attempt to prejudge the borders of a final solution to the conflict and whereas.
The Israeli government says the barrier is for security reasons. Israel has an absolute right to defend its citizens from attack. But the route of the barrier — snaking deep into the West Bank will mean lands claimed by Palestinians for their future state will lie on the Israeli side of the barrier.
The issue of East Jerusalem is especially contentious — Palestinians hope it will be the capital of their future state. The plan, which was authorised by Ariel Sharon and the Israeli Supreme Court, will see Ma’ale Adumim, the largest West Bank Israeli settlement encompassed by the barrier.
The town of Bethlehem will also be divided and the holy site of Rachel’s Tomb will lie on the Israeli side. Construction is due for completion by the end of the year. As Christian Aid witnessed on a recent trip to the West Bank, the route of the barrier is having a devastating effect on the lives of Palestinians living nearby and many have been forced to move.
The story of Palestinian headmistress and mother of two, Terri Bullata, illustrates the hardships the barrier is causing. She and her family live directly in the shadow of the wall in the Abu Dis district which now falls on the West Bank side of the wall. Their house, however, is on the ‘Jerusalem’ side. She, being a Jerusalemite, has blue Jerusalem ID which, under the Israeli permit system means that she can reside in Jerusalem and generally enjoy greater freedom of movement than her West Bank compatriots — including her own husband. If her husband’s ID is checked he could be deported to the other side of the barrier, forcing the family apart.
As in the case of the Bullatta family, along the entire length of the route of the barrier in the Jerusalem district, Palestinians are separated from Palestinians and not from Israelis — which begs the question of how that provides Israelis with security.