|Arabs engaged in an illegal act|
By Chaim Levinson
Defense Minister Ehud Barak has decided to close the breach in the separation fence between Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim, thereby positioning the fence between the Palestinian village of Al-Zaim and the contested E-1 area. This would mean that Ma'aleh Adumim would be located outside the security fence and that Palestinians would be prevented from reaching area E-1.
The plan is to be presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his approval next week.
The breach in the fence at Al-Zaim, a small village just east of Jerusalem's municipal boundaries, is three kilometers wide. However, there is a wall west of Al-Zaim which was built to prevent the residents of Al-Zaim who are not permitted in Israel from reaching Jerusalem. (Al-Zaim can be accessed via the Al-Zaim checkpoint on the road leading from Jerusalem to Ma'aleh Adumim and the Dead Sea. )
The breach in the wall at Al-Zaim was reportedly left intact to allow Ma'aleh Adumim to be encircled by a huge loop in the security fence. However, the defense minister has now decided against including Ma'aleh Adumim within the security fence because of the astronomical cost of the loop.
With regard to Al-Zaim, the defense minister had two options: include it in Israeli territory or position it east of the fence. The main difference between the options has to do with E-1, in which Netanyahu plans to build a settlement, despite opposition by the international community.
Area E-1 ends behind Al-Zaim and is connected to the village by a path; this is how the Palestinians who built the outpost of Bab al-Shams over a week ago reached the site.
Including Al-Zaim within the security fence will cut off Al-Zaim from E-1, leaving E-1 disconnected from Palestinian territory.
The defense minister's decision raises a number of questions: If the fence is completed, the residents of Al-Zaim will be cut off by the fence on the east and by the wall on the west; if this happens, they would likely petition the High Court of Justice. The route of the security fence is supposed to be determined based on security decisions only; however, sources in the defense establishment have already said that the security considerations in this case are not solid.
Barak has also decided to move ahead with opening the Hizme-Anata road, which traverses the thin strip between Al-Zaim and Jerusalem and is meant to serve Palestinians driving from the northern West Bank to the southern West Bank.
The political benefit of opening the road is that it would allow Israel to counter the claim that E-1 cuts the West Bank in two, as the Hizme-Anata road passes west of E-1 but east of Jerusalem. In fact, when the road opens, following repairs, Israel can claim that it is improving transportation between Ramallah in the north and Bethlehem in the south.
The Defense Minister's bureau referred Haaretz's request for comment to the office of the Israel Defense Forces coordinator of activities in the territories, Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, who did not respond by press time.