In bid to overcome some legal difficulties that would delay the completion of the West Bank separation wall, Israeli Minister of Defense, Shaul Mofaz proposed some changes on the wall route.

The proposed changes, presented to the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for approval, include rerouting the wall in the northern part of West Bank area between Salfit and Nablus, as the current route cuts off several villages from other villages and from these two major cities.

The current route in that area is designed to annex the West Bank settlement of Ariel to Israel which, according to Israeli law, is illegal, since Ariel is built on land occupied in 1967 six-day-war.

Lately, the Israeli high court ruled that it is illegal for the state to build the wall based on political considerations such as annexing land occupied in 1967 to Israel.

This solution for legal difficulties is seen as partial by local observers since at least 90 thousand Palestinians who live in villages along the route of the wall that face the same problems the villages near Nablus and Salfit are facing.

Mofaz: “Separation Wall construction to be accelerated in coming weeks”

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz ordered Tuesday that the construction of the Separation Wall around Jerusalem should be given top priority, and that it should be accelerated in the coming weeks.

The orders of Mofaz also include resolving all legal problems which are delaying the construction of the Wall in several areas.

The legal problems will be detailed to the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, during his scheduled meeting with Mofaz on Wednesday; the two will also discuss the list of wall segments which are currently under construction and the timetable for completing the work.

Also, Mofaz was briefed on the situation concerning the Wall on Tuesday by Mashiah Netzah, head of the Seam Line Administration.

Netzah told Mofaz that so far 213 kilometers of the Wall have been completed, and two segments in Jerusalem in addition to 190km which are currently under construction between Elkana and Jerusalem, in the east of the city from Gush Atzion settlement to Metzudat Yehuda, and also around the West Bank settlements of Ariel and Immanuel.   

The main portion of the wall between El-Kana and Jerusalem is scheduled to be completed between December 2005 and March 2006. So far, 80km out of 100km are under construction, but three segments were delayed due to petitions to the Israeli High Court of Justice.  

The segments are near Kiryat Sefer, 6.5km, between Maccabim – Beit Sira, 2.5km, and near Beit Doqqu, close to Mevasseret Zion, 9km.

The route of the separation wall in Jerusalem was largely finalized except in three areas as a result of petitions filed to the court.

The three areas are al-Ram, Al-Ezariyya and the Bir Nibala.

In al-Ram, the planned section of the Wall goes through houses, a monastery and international institution, petitions were filed to the High court, but the Israeli prosecution is trying to reach an “out-of-court settlement concerning this issue, Haaretz online daily reported.

The second area is south of Al-Ezariyya, complaints concerning the section of the Wall were filed; the petitions and complaints are being discussed by a government appeals committee.

The third section is in Bir Nibala area which will be isolated; Israel claims it is constructing a new road to connect Bir Nibala with Ramallah before completing the Wall in that area.

The Wall is slated to become operative by October 2005, if some sections were not completed by then, Israel plan to deploy mobile forces to patrol the gaps, the patrols will also be aided by lookout towers.

The section of the Wall which extends from Gush Atzion settlement until Metzudat Yehuda is still under construction, a small segment was not completed near Eshkolot as a result of legal procedures, Israel predicts to complete it by the end of the year.

Construction of the Wall around the Gush Etzion settlement bloc is scheduled to begin in two weeks, and the construction around Beit Arye and Ofraim settlements will start August 2005.

Israeli authorities said that they are designing roads which are said to “reduce the harm the wall causes to the residents”, and that it began establishing two roads; one road extends from Bir Nibala to Qalandia, and another road between Biddu village and al-Jeeb.

The paving of another road, described by the Israeli Public Works Department as the “eastern ring road” connecting the northern and southern part of the West Bank, will start in ten days.  

On the other hand, the Israeli Foreign Ministry, is preparing plans to block the Palestinian efforts to put the issue of the Separation Wall back on the agenda of the United Nations, to decrease the international criticism against the construction of the Wall.