- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 15, 2004

HAR ADAR, West Bank — Residents of established Jewish settlements such as Har Adar worry that a new, court-ordered route for Israel’s security barrier will leave them within reach of Palestinian snipers and gasoline bombs.

The Israeli army has consulted local leaders since the Supreme Court ruled on June 30 that the original route would impose undue hardship on Palestinian communities. But it has not announced a new route, leaving the residents’ fate subject to speculation and rumor.

“We are saying that they’ve given excessive support to the concerns of the Palestinians,” said Har Adar local council head David Efrati. “The military might forget that we also have a routine of life.”

In the neighboring bedroom community of Mevaseret Tsiyon, there are rumors that the fence will come within 300 yards of the outskirts.

“We don’t know yet,” said Arie Shaman, deputy chairman of the Mevaseret council. “There’s a danger that the fence will be so close to the houses, it will be impossible to protect children on the porches, it will be possible to throw Molotov cocktails over the fence.”

The Supreme Court ruling ordered the Israeli government to reroute about 18 miles of the barrier running east toward Jerusalem from hilltops just a few miles from Ben Gurion Airport.

The court argued that the government had a right to construct the separation barrier in the West Bank. But it said the planners had failed to strike a reasonable balance between the security concerns of Israelis and concern for the economic and social life of Palestinians.

The decision was followed within weeks by a nonbinding decision from the International Court of Justice in The Hague, which said building portions of the fence in the West Bank violated international law.

Israel’s government has approved rerouting the fence closer to the internationally recognized border, but said it still would divert the barrier deep into the West Bank to include Ariel, the largest settlement in the northern West Bank.

On a tour of the area last week, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said that Ma’aleh Adumim — the largest settlement in the West Bank — and the Etzion settlement block also would remain on the Israeli side of the fence.

“The fence isn’t being returned to the ‘67 lines,” he said. “There was a such a feeling, but in certain areas, the fence is getting closer; and in other areas, it’s getting further away.”

Har Adar was built on a strategic hilltop once occupied by the Jordan Legion, which overlooks the mountains around Jerusalem. Now it’s a bedroom community of well-to-do Israelis who have built multistory houses with palatial patios — a startling contrast to the cookie-cutter, red-roofed dwellings in most settlements.

Long before the government began debating the construction of a security fence, Har Adar closed off the road to a neighboring Palestinian village with two electronic gates.

A tiny detachment of soldiers is stationed at the crossing point between Har Adar and Bidu, but that doesn’t seem to bother the hundreds of Palestinians who come to work in the settlement daily. The gates are open for five hours a day, and a hot line to the Har Adar security office facilitates traffic around the clock.

“I just call, and they come and open the gate, just as it should be,” said Abed Badwan, a Bidu resident who owns olive orchards and vineyards inside the settlement.

Har Adar Security Officer Yair Fisher said the original route of the fence would have enclosed the Bidu villagers in a “concentration camp.” But he fears that the new route will give Palestinian terrorists from outside the village an opportunity to stage attacks across the fence.

Farther west, the two small settlements of Nili and Na’aleh are worried that the barrier will cut across a highway connecting them with commercial centers in the nearby city of Modi’in.

“The Supreme Court said you shouldn’t hurt the quality of life of the Palestinians. Fine, but you shouldn’t hurt our quality of life,” said Rani Harnik, head of the Na’aleh council.

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