Israelis join appeal against wall
By ABRAHAM RABINOVICH, Herald correspondent
JERUSALEM - Israeli citizens have for the first time joined Palestinians in a court appeal against the route of the controversial security barrier Israel is building on the West Bank.
About 30 residents of the Israeli suburb of Mevasseret Zion outside Jerusalem added their names to a Palestinian petition to the High Court of Justice against the fence section being built between their community and neighbouring Arab villages. The Jewish residents maintained that fencing in the Palestinian villagers would lead to terror, not prevent it.
"We have not had any problems with them all these years," said Sarah Bar-Tal of the Palestinian villagers. "But when people are under pressure they react violently."
The court yesterday ordered construction of the fence in the entire Jerusalem area halted for a week while it examines the issue. The close interweaving of Jewish and Arab communities makes the fence route here particularly problematic.
In addition to the 30 Israelis from Mevasseret Zion who joined the Palestinian appeal, 200 residents of the affluent Israeli town signed a petition against the fence's route.
Spokesmen for the signatories said they supported the construction of the security fence, designed to stop suicide bombers, but wanted it built along the pre-Six Day War green line marking the boundary between Israel and the West Bank and not on Palestinian land.
The fence's route would cut the Arab villagers off from their fields, said one resident, Haggai Agmon-Snir.
"I am not saying we don't need a fence. We actually do. But there is no reason to create unnecessary hatred," he said.
"The moment there will be hatred on the other side, they will begin to fire rockets at our homes."
Lawyers for the Palestinian petitioners told the court that the fence would cut off eight villages in the Jerusalem area from 2000 acres of agricultural land.
"Our goal is to prevent the Palestinians from being swallowed up inside the fence," said lawyer Mohammed Dahla.
"You can't strangle 30,000 residents and turn their villages into a prison."
Dahla said the High Court's decision to temporarily suspend construction was the first time it had intervened in the project.
In responding to the petition, lawyers for the Israeli Defence Ministry said the Army wanted the fence inside Palestinian territory in order to provide the depth needed to stop terrorists who managed to get through the barrier before they reached Mevasseret. Nearly one-third of the planned 660km-long West Bank barrier has been completed since construction began last year.
Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz said yesterday that there had been a marked reduction in terror attacks in those areas where the fence had been completed.
Arab residents of Biddu and Beit Surik invited the residents of the Jewish town to visit their villages and see how the fence would cut them off from their lands and their livelihood.
A three-man bench, headed by High Court President Aharon Barak, scheduled another hearing next Monday.
The court urged the two sides to attempt meanwhile to come to a compromise.
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