Jerusalem: setback in protest of settler road construction 30Mar13 March 30, 2013

Alternative Information Centre    -    29 March 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile construction of a major highway through the middle of the Palestinian village of Beit Safafa in Jerusalem continues unabated, the residents of Beit Safafa also continue their struggle against this highway, which both divides the village and is designed to serve nearby Israeli settlements. The High Court, however, has ruled this construction may continue even while a suit against the highway is pending.

In addition to staging engaged weekly protests against Highway 50, residents of Beit Safafa are pursuing legal steps against its construction. Their bid to lower and cover what will be a highway of up to eleven lanes has gone to Israel’s High Court of Justice. A decision is expected in June.

This legal initiative, undertaken by 15 families from Beit Safa who are represented by Attorney Kais Nasser, recently suffered a setback, as their motion requesting that construction be frozen until the Court gives its final ruling was rejected.

In her ruling from 21 March, High Court Justice Edna Arbel bases her decision on an advisory opinion submitted by the Jerusalem Municipality, which claims suspension of the roadwork would cost NIS 20 million for each month of interrupted work.  The damage to the state of Israel, goes this argument, would be higher that the damage done to Beit Safafa.

Attorney Nasser doubts the veracity of the municipality’s advisory opinion and rejects the focus on finances. “The destruction done to Beit Safafa by construction of the road has no price, it cannot even be counted in money.¨ he stated after receiving the ruling.

In the meantime, Beit Safafa residents have requested to advance the final ruling, hoping to minimize damage to the village. If this request is rejected, the highway construction will have progressed considerably by the time of the final hearing.

The Jerusalem municipality’s construction of the highway is based on plans developed 23 years ago and forms the final link in the web of highways connecting the settlement blocs surrounding Jerusalem with the city and the routes through Israel. To the south, Highway 50 will channel traffic to the settlement cluster of Gush Etzion around Bethlehem. To the north, it links to Road 443, which cuts through the West Bank on its way to Tel Aviv. Insulated by walls and barbed wire, large parts of this road are inaccessible to Palestinians.

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