The statement on the wall that was made a few days ago by Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz
revealed Israel’s true intentions and confirmed the suspicions of the Palestinian side. Mofaz said
explicitly that this unilateral disengagement project will allow Israel further to expand and
consolidate settlements in the West Bank. The Palestinians have always understood that the
disengagement plan provided certain withdrawals in the Gaza Strip in return for gains for West Bank
The wall Israel has been building in the West Bank is a main component of that unilateral
disengagement project. The wall is in fact part of the ongoing Israeli settlement expansion strategy
that includes East Jerusalem, which is considered by the Palestinians, under international law, and
in the official position of almost every country in the world to be part of the Palestinian occupied
Consequently, the Israeli Jewish presence in East Jerusalem is part of the Israelis' illegal
settlement expansion policy. The wall is being built in a way that is based on political and
demographic considerations more than security ones. It is simply trying to separate the Palestinian
populated areas from the Palestinian areas that are settled illegally by Jewish settlers in order to
create political facts on the ground and prejudge the final status negotiations.
This is especially clear in the case of the wall in Jerusalem, which follows a path that is clearly
based on demographic and political considerations rather than security. It is mostly separating
Palestinian occupied areas from other Palestinian occupied areas.
The Israelis’ apparent rationale is to create a new geographic definition of Jerusalem. The wall
intends to create a new boundary with a Jewish majority inside and Palestinian populated parts of
Jerusalem outside. The economic and humanitarian effects of the wall are also significant, because
it goes through intensely populated areas and disrupts the movement of hundreds of thousands of
Palestinians to work, schools, hospitals, etc.
This conflict has been continuing and intensifying mainly as a result of the oppression of the
Palestinian people. This wall is only about further injustice. It is accompanied by seizing,
closing, or confiscating more Palestinian land and expanding illegal Jewish settlements. It also
increases the humiliation and suffering of the Palestinian people, whose standard of living is
deteriorating as a result.
If Israel is trying to inflame the conflict by building this wall, then it is making no mistakes. In
contrast, the way to deescalate the conflict and violence is only by understanding and recognizing
the legal, political, and human needs of the Palestinian people through completely ending this
occupation, including its settlements, and tearing down its walls.
Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of bitterlemons.org and bitterlemons-international.org. He is minister of
labor in the Palestinian Authority cabinet and has served for many years as a political analyst and
The West Bank separation fence works. It keeps out terrorists, and for that matter illegal
Palestinian immigrants and car thieves too. It has made a major contribution to a radical reduction
in Palestinian suicide bombings over recent months. It stands to reason that it must encompass the
Jerusalem area as well.
The Israeli authorities, faced with the need to delineate a path for the fence in Jerusalem, have
adhered mainly to the expanded municipal boundaries created by Israel in 1967. That decision is
causing hardship to tens of thousands of Palestinian Jerusalemites and their immediate neighbors in
the surrounding West Bank. The ugliest manifestation is the eight meter high wall in Abu Dis. So
problematic are large sections of the Jerusalem area fence/wall that dozens of High Court appeals
have frozen its progress. Even the Ministry of Defense planners of the fence realize they have a
fiasco on their hands.
In order to find a better way to build the fence, we need to recall how we got ourselves into this
mess in the first place. When the dust settled from the 1967 Six-Day War, Israeli intelligence
assessed that we would shortly be subjected to heavy American and Soviet pressures to withdraw from
all the territories we had just occupied. This assumption was based on the precedent of two previous
wars, in 1948-49 and 1956, when we were obliged by great power demands to withdraw from portions of
southern Lebanon and the Sinai Peninsula.
A hasty deliberation in June 1967 by the Israeli unity government of the day determined that we
could preempt the anticipated pressures by "creating facts" that would make it difficult to force us
to withdraw from at least one occupied area: East Jerusalem with its Jewish holy and historic sites.
A committee was established to define the borders of the East Jerusalem area destined for
annexation. Here began a process that seemed logical at the time, but can only be described in
retrospect as an act of folly.
Based on the assumption that peace with our neighbors was unlikely, that nearly all the territories
would soon be returned, and that beyond the bounds of Jerusalem we would once again confront the
Jordanian Arab Legion, the decision was taken to expand the borders of East Jerusalem to render them
defensible by encompassing the hilltops to the east, north and south of the city from which
Jordanian troops had shot at Israelis during the years between 1948 and 1967. That pushed the new
border to places like the village of Sur Baher to the east. Further, yielding to the assessment of
then-Mayor Teddy Kollek that Jerusalem could once again come under siege as in 1948 and would need
to be resupplied more efficiently, a finger of municipal territory was drawn to the north, almost to
al Bireh, to encompass the landing strip at Qalandia.
Consequently, instead of annexing a few thousand Palestinian Arab residents in the Old City and
Mount of Olives and Mount Scopus areas--the places that interested Israel from an historic and
religious standpoint--we annexed some 70,000 Palestinians in 1967. Most of the annexed Palestinians
lived in areas that interact on a daily basis with the surrounding West Bank, for which East
Jerusalem remains the commercial, educational, medical, religious, and cultural center. These have
now become more than 200,000 residents, interacting with an even larger number in the nearby
Ramallah and Bethlehem areas. To ensure the impossibility of returning to the old lines, we have
built extensive Jewish neighborhoods in the annexed parts of the city, thereby creating a virtually
inseparable ethnic/religious mosaic.
Needless to say, none of the pessimistic assessments that underpinned Israel's Jerusalem annexation
scheme ever came to pass. The United States and Soviet Union never pressed for withdrawal; the
vicissitudes of Israel-Arab and Arab-Arab interactions led the Jordanians to abdicate any intention
of returning to the West Bank; and all parties accept that an eventual Palestinian state will be
demilitarized, hence unable to mount a military threat to Israeli Jerusalem.
Back in 1967, in the euphoria of an historic military victory and the absence of a convincing
Palestinian national movement, most Israelis were blind to the demographic and political
ramifications of the Jerusalem expansion scheme. We no longer have that excuse. Successive Israeli
governments and Jerusalem municipalities have failed to provide a coherent political solution for
more than 200,000 Arab residents of the city whom Israel doesn't want but won't let go of. The
fence/wall in Jerusalem as currently planned will create legions of newly embittered Palestinian
Jerusalemites, including potential terrorists, some within and some beyond the barrier, and will
unfairly disrupt the lives of hundreds of thousands more.
The fence is increasingly seen as defining a political as well as a security border. In order to
avoid a situation in which the Jerusalem fence perpetuates a negative demographic dynamic and
actually worsens Israel's security situation, its path must be reconsidered. Even the Israeli
political right now increasingly acknowledges that the inclusion of villages like Sur Baher within
the Jerusalem municipal boundaries--soon to be reaffirmed by the fence--is a mistake.
While in some parts of the north and south of the city the fence's location makes sense, this is not
the case to the east. Here a decision must be taken, in some areas, to move the anti-terrorist
barrier closer to the border between the Jewish and Arab parts of Jerusalem, and in other areas to
rely on armed patrols rather than fences. While this is not an optimal solution from a security,
political, demographic, or humanitarian standpoint, as a synthesis of these requirements it is
certainly better than the existing plan.
Yossi Alpher is coeditor of bitterlemons.org and bitterlemons-international.org. He is a former
director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies and a former senior adviser to PM Ehud Barak.
Israel’s wall in East Jerusalem slices through Palestinian communities and Palestinian lives like a
Since 1967, Israeli policy in East Jerusalem has been designed to encourage Jewish Israeli
settlement and to decrease the number of Palestinian residents through a series of punitive building
and residency laws that are only applied to non-Jews. The wall excises Palestinian communities from
the landscape of East Jerusalem, containing them in isolated, disconnected ghettos.
By the time the Jerusalem wall is completed, more than 90 percent of the East Jerusalem district
will be absorbed by Israel. About 250,000 Palestinians will be stranded in walled enclosures and cut
off from both East Jerusalem and other urban centers. They will lose access to schools,
universities, medical facilities, the Haram al-Sharif and Church of the Holy Sepulchre--and each
The 15,000 Jerusalem residents who live in Qalandia and Kufr Aqab, which are north of the wall, are
likely to lose their Jerusalem residency rights altogether. To the northwest, the wall imprisons Bir
Nabala, Judeira, Jib, and the old city of Beit Hanina (combined population 14,000). The southern
part of the wall cuts off Bethlehem, Beit Sahour, Beit Jala, and their refugee camps (comb. pop.
170,000) from East Jerusalem and from the central and northern West Bank. It also imprisons the
1,600 residents of Walaja.
Since 1967, the stated policy of the Jerusalem Municipality has been to create a ratio of 78 Jews
for every 28 Palestinians. So the Municipality confiscated land from Palestinians and made it
available only to Jews, revoked the residency rights of Palestinians (but not Jews) and required
that they continually prove their rights, denied building permits only to Palestinian residents, and
demolished illegally built Palestinian homes. The Jerusalem wall ratchets up this policy by carving
Palestinian communities out of East Jerusalem and making it impossible for people to conduct the
activities of everyday life.
Palestinians in the town of al Ram between East Jerusalem and Ramallah (and east of the wall) will
lose their livelihoods as the result of the wall. Al Ram’s population grew to 60,000 with the influx
of Jerusalem residents who were unable to build homes in East Jerusalem. It became a lively hub of
transportation between the two larger cities. Now, however, the wall slices through al Ram and
encircles most of the town, killing work opportunities.
More fundamentally, the wall creates a labyrinthine maze residents must negotiate to cross even
trivial distances. In August 2003, I met Fatima Assad, a schoolteacher who lives in Qalandia and
works in East Jerusalem, who told me how the fragment of the wall that was in place when we met
changed her seven kilometer commute into a two to three hour daily ordeal, much of it spent on foot.
It is a scene that is becoming all too familiar throughout the occupied territories. If the wall is
completed as planned, 43.5% of the West Bank will be annexed to Israel. When one considers the
implications of the wall in the context of the network of bypass roads (for Israeli settlers only),
access roads (restricting entry to Palestinian towns to one or two gated roads that are locked
overnight), and more than 480 checkpoints that make travel between Palestinian towns nearly
impossible, it becomes clear that the West Bank has been divided into impoverished cantons
subdivided into ghettos. This can only be described as a policy of ethnic cleansing.
The course of the wall was defined, not to prevent suicide bombings (an argument that would have
been hard to refute had the wall been built on the green line) but rather to inflict the maximum
amount of damage on Palestinian society. The wall implements what Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stated
(as reported by The Times on August 24, 1988) as his preference: “You don’t simply bundle people
onto trucks and drive them away. . . . I prefer to advocate a positive policy, to create, in
effect, a condition that in a positive way will induce people to leave.”
What legitimate security needs are met by Israel’s demand that Palestinians in the “seam area” (that
is, those who find themselves west of the wall) secure permits from Israeli military authorities
simply to live in their own homes? If Israeli security is the issue, what is the justification for
separating Palestinian communities from each other? How are Israelis more secure when the 40,000
residents of Qalqilya, surrounded on all sides by an eight meter high wall, are denied a view of the
The Israeli political establishment seems to believe that if it stomps long and hard enough on the
Palestinians, they will forego their national and political rights. So Israel bulldozed Jenin and
Nablus and more recently Rafah. This policy is sterile and ultimately will fail. How much longer
will the Israeli public and Israel’s supporters abroad accept Israel’s predatory definition of its
My main concern is how much longer Palestinians will have to spend their time, energies, and
creativity just finding ways to survive and maintain their sense of dignity in the face of Israel’s
relentless attacks. No people should be so cruelly tested.
Ida Audeh is a technical writer.
The separation fence is today at the center of public debate. Ultimately it will constitute a
physical barrier between us and the Palestinians. Many people are in favor of its construction. The
terrorist acts of recent years inside the green line generated an understanding among ourselves and
the Palestinians that even if the two peoples are destined one day to live peacefully side by side--for the present they have to separate.
The debate that produces almost daily protests, demonstrations, disturbances, violent attacks, and
appeals to the High Court of Justice is not about the necessity for the barrier--but rather its
location. In many instances the barrier creates gross injustices and humanitarian and economic
problems. It separates people from their land and source of income, families from their communities,
students from their institutions of learning, the ill from their physicians, entire populations from
the center of their lives. But when we speak of the barrier in Jerusalem, what is called the
Jerusalem envelope, we encounter all these dilemmas and something else: stupidity.
In June 1967, shortly after the Six-Day War, the Government of Israel decided to expand the borders
of Jerusalem. A small city encompassing 38 square kilometers all told became a large metropolis of
108 sq. km. Overnight Jerusalem became the biggest city in Israel in terms of both expanse and
Then in the early 1970s, the government added two important decisions. One was to build new
neighborhoods in the annexed parts of the city and encourage Jews from around the country and the
world to establish their homes there. The second was a directive to municipal planners to design
their long-term plans so as to maintain the 1967 demographic ratio within the city of 74.2 percent
Jews and 25.8 percent Arabs (figures from the Jerusalem Institute of Israel Studies). This directive
constituted a green light for the planning and building authorities, Jerusalem Municipality, and
Ministry of Interior to limit construction plans for Jerusalem Arabs and to reduce, to the greatest
extent possible, the areas allotted for building.
One of the default options left open to Jerusalem Arabs was to build their homes outside the new
city limits, but close enough so that Jerusalem would continue to constitute the center of their
lives. Thousands of Palestinian families were pushed toward this option and built their homes
outside the city limits, but only a few minutes’ drive from its center. Indeed the Ministry of
Housing, in close cooperation with the Jerusalem Municipality and with the aid of mortgages from the
Bank of Jerusalem, offered Jerusalem Arabs an additional incentive--an offer they could not refuse:
buy a new home in al Azaria next to Jerusalem and enhance your standard of living.
Jerusalem Arabs who seized this opportunity were reassured by the Ministry and the Municipality that
none of their privileges as residents of the State of Israel--social security allowances, health
insurance, Israeli ID, etc.--would in any way be curtailed. So successful was the scheme that a
second, "build your own house" phase was declared in al Azaria. Once again the issue of residents'
rights was raised, and once again assurances were provided that all residency privileges would be
maintained. So again many hurried to exploit the mortgage bargains being offered by the bank,
purchased lots, and built new homes.
To this day, thousands of Palestinian families have left Jerusalem in this way at their own
initiative. To a large extent, the Israeli authorities have remained faithful to their commitment
not to detract from the rights of East Jerusalem Arabs who moved their dwellings to parts of the
West Bank adjacent to Jerusalem, even though according to the letter of the law, these families
(residents but not citizens of Israel, whose lives still focus on Jerusalem) have left Israel and no
longer enjoy the same privileges as the rest of Israel's residents.
Here we come to the separation fence. The barrier, currently being constructed energetically, will
create a sad new reality. Thousands of Palestinian families whose lives center on Jerusalem but who
built homes beyond the municipal borders will now find themselves cut off from the city. The
merchant whose business is in East Jerusalem, the clerk or social worker employed by the
Municipality, the children who study at schools run by the Municipality and Ministry of Education,
the employee of a Jerusalem Arab or Jewish business--all are Jerusalem residents, all continue to
pay their taxes and social security charges to the Israeli authorities and to receive social
security pensions, and all will discover that they have in effect left Jerusalem permanently and are
completely cut off from the center of their lives.
Thus far the injustice. Where is the stupidity? We have noted that the government of Israel wanted
to preserve the same demographic ratio between Jews and Arabs as in 1967 and instructed its planners
accordingly. Now, as a consequence of the physical barrier going up between Jerusalem and the
adjacent West Bank neighborhoods, thousands of Palestinian families that live outside the city in
nearby suburbs are beginning to return to the city. Since Jerusalem cannot satisfy all their housing
needs, they will live in poor and crowded conditions--so long as they can live in Jerusalem.
And what has happened to the demographic ratio? The Israeli government's dream of maintaining the
1967 proportion between Jews and Arabs is no longer valid. The ratio is changing. The government,
which wanted a solid Jewish majority in the city, is liable to wake up to a very different reality.
Amir Cheshin was senior adviser on Arab affairs to Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek from 1984 to 1994.
Earlier he served in the Israel Defense Forces in a number of positions dealing with Jerusalem and
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