oPt

OPT: Apartheid wall construction accelerates during time of 'disengagement'

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Home demolitions, settlement-building, and Apartheid Wall construction have all accelerated during the run-up to the Gaza disengagement. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has made it clear that both the disengagement and the Apartheid Wall are about strengthening Israel's hold over the West Bank, and not about peace or security. The Israeli security apparatus has also concluded that a new round of armed conflict will result if the disengagement is not followed by a comprehensive peace plan.

The Wall, of course, makes a just and negotiated peace process impossible. It is by definition a unilateral action designed to incorporate as many illegal Israeli settlements and Palestinian land as possible into Israel while excluding as many Palestinians as possible.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz recently presented Sharon with several proposed changes to the Wall route in the area of the Ariel settlement, a settlement located 20 km deep into the West Bank. Its annexation will mean cutting the northern West Bank into two super-cantons containing several isolated enclaves or ghettoes. Mofaz suggested changing the route slightly so as not to include several Palestinian villages in the area Israel plans to annex, a move designed to prevent legal difficulties in the completion of the Wall's construction.

Mofaz's suggestion of building new roads and tunnels - on Palestinian land - to ease travel between the various ghettoes is unacceptable, as it merely entrenches egregious breaches of international laws and destroys more illegally expropriated Palestinian land in the process. The Wall is illegal and unacceptable, and anything that entrenches its existence is seen as wholly unacceptable by Palestinians.

Israel's actions this summer are the epitome of unilateral solutions, with Israel taking whatever it wants and leaving the Palestinians no choice but to accept Israel's dictates or face severe military reprisals against which the Palestinian people are completely helpless.

Without the international community stepping in to uphold the rule of international law and the universally-recognized rights of the Palestinians to their lives, property, land, and freedom of movement, a new and terrible round of violence, which could easily spill into the rest of the region, is virtually assured.

Update on the Wall's progress, taken from Haaretz newspaper:

On Tuesday, Mofaz ordered the Wall's contruction to be accelerated in the coming weeks with top priority given to completing the Wall in East Jerusalem. He also ordered officials to accelerate their efforts to resolve legal problems holding up construction of several segments.

To date, 213 kilometers of the Apartheid Wall have been built, from Jenin in the north to Biddya, south of Qalqiliya, plus two segments in East Jerusalem. Another 190 kilometers are under construction - between Biddya and East Jerusalem; from Bethlehem to Sammu, south of Hebron; and around the illegal Israeli settlements of Ariel and Immanuel deep in the heart of the West Bank.

The central portion of the fence, between Biddya and East Jerusalem, will be finished between December 2005 and March 2006. Today, 80 kilometers of this 100-kilometer section are under construction, but work on three segments has been delayed by petitions to the High Court of Justice: near the illegal settlement of Kiryat Sefer (6.5 kilometers), between Maccabim settlement and the Palestinian village of Beit Sira (2.5 kilometers), and near Beit Diko, east of Mevasseret Zion settlement (9 kilometers).

The fence's route in Jerusalem has been largely finalized, but legal problems remain in three areas. One area, near Al-Ram, houses a monastery and international institutions; a High Court petition has been filed against this section, but the prosecution is trying to reach an out-of-court settlement. Complaints about another section south of Al-Azzariyeh are currently being discussed by a government appeals committee.

The fence around Jerusalem is slated to become operative in October, even if a few sections have not yet been completed. In that case, mobile forces will patrol the gaps, aided by lookout towers. Terminals at Qalandia and Bethlehem will be turned into "international terminals" and access to the West Bank for East Jerusalemites, and vice versa, is not assured. Hundreds of thousands of lives will likely be ruined by this plan.

The southern section, from Bethlehem to the very south of the West Bank, is under construction with the exception of a small segment near the illegal settlement of Eshkolot, where there is a dispute over the land. Construction here will be finished by the end of the year.

In another two weeks, construction of the fence around the Gush Etzion settlement bloc south and west of Bethlehem will begin, and in August work will start on the fence around the settlements of Beit Arye and Ofarim, which are located on the ridge east of Ben-Gurion Airport. The fence around Ma'aleh Adumim, which will cut the West Bank in two and further sever East Jerusalem from the West Bank, is currently in advanced planning stages.

The fence planners are also designing a series of new roads designed to ease Palestinians' freedom of movement between their prison-like enclaves. Work has already begun on two such roads, one from imprisoned Bir Naballah to Qalandiya and another between Biddu, which will be crowded into a tiny enclave with several other villages, and Al Jib near Ramallah. In 10 days, the Public Works Department will start paving the "eastern ring road," which will connect the northern and southern parts of the West Bank east of Ma'aleh Adumim. This will isolate the West Bank from East Jerusalem even further

Without an agreed-upon and negotiated settlement of the question of East Jerusalem, no peace is possible. Therefore Israel's plans to annex it unilaterally forestall any chance for true peace.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry is preparing to block Palestinian efforts to put the fence back on the United Nations' agenda. On July 9, 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled Israel's Apartheid Wall illegal under international law and demanded that it be dismantled and all victims compensated. Israel so far has ignored the ruling, and the American government has continued funding the breach of international law, which is a breach of American law as well.