At the end of August the Political-Security Cabinet approved two new sections of the separation barrier in the Jerusalem area. Other sections of the "Jerusalem Envelope," north and south of the city and in a total length of twenty kilometers, have been completed (except for a small area near Rachel's Tomb, in Bethlehem).
Construction of the first of the two new sections began in October. It will run for seventeen kilometers, from the eastern edge of Beit Sahur in the south to the eastern edge of al-'Eizariya in the north.
The southern end of this section will join the completed section south of the city. Two-thirds of the new section will run along the eastern border of the Jerusalem Municipality, and the other third winds eastward, through al-'Eizariya, to the Ma'aleh Adumim settlement.
The second section will cover a distance of fourteen kilometers, from the southern edge of 'Anata to the Qalandiya checkpoint, where it will connect with the barrier that has already been erected north of the city. Most of this section runs along the Jerusalem Municipality's border. A short section bypasses the Shu'afat refugee camp (9,000 residents), which is situated in Jerusalem, leaving the camp east of the barrier that will be built, i.e., not on the Jerusalem side.
The Political-Security Cabinet decided that the two new sections would not meet. In the area between them in the middle of which lies the highway from Jerusalem to Ma'aleh Adumim, and alongside it the town of a-Za'eem will not have a barrier at this stage.
Following the 1967 war, Israel annexed extensive areas of surrounding land into the jurisdictional area of Jerusalem. Some 220,000 Palestinians now live in these annexed areas. A number of Palestinian towns ("suburbs") are situated east of the new border and adjacent to it: A-Ram and D'hiyat al-Barid (23,3000 residents), Hizma (5,600), 'Anata (8,800), al-'Eizariya (15,900), Abu Dis (11,000), Sawahirar a-Sharqiya (4,700), Sheikh Sa'ad (2,200), and parts of Tsur Baher (700), a total of 72,200 residents.
Until recently, Jerusalem's municipal borders did not significantly affect the daily lives of residents on both sides:
Over the years, Palestinian building expanded on both sides, creating a contiguous urban bloc.
Many residents moved from East Jerusalem to the (West Bank) suburbs because they were not allowed to build in East Jerusalem. However, they continued to hold Israeli ID cards.
Many children living in the suburbs go to schools in East Jerusalem and many college students from East Jerusalem study at Al-Quds University, which is located in Abu Dis.
A large percentage of residents of the suburbs receive medical services in al-Moqassad Hospital and Augusta Victoria Hospital, both located in East Jerusalem.
Many residents of the suburbs work in East Jerusalem. Also, merchants and businesspeople from the suburbs make a living from customers who come from East Jerusalem.
Residents maintain close family and social ties with residents on the other side of the municipality's border.
Establishment of the barrier's route along the eastern border of Jerusalem completely ignores this reality. Israel has put up physical obstructions along the municipal seam line. These roadblocks restrict the freedom of movement of residents on both sides. The most conspicuous obstruction stands two meters high and runs along a street between Abu Dis and Ras al-'Amud.
The planned separation barrier is composed, for the most part, of an electronic fence, barbed-wire fences, and trenches. The width of the barrier ranges is about fifty meters on average. In a small number of areas, including the current wall in Abu Dis, the barrier will be composed of a wall six to eight meters high. Unlike the current obstructions, the barrier will completely seal the municipal seam line and destroy the existing fabric of life.
To date, the Ministry of Defense has not clarified whether it intends to place crossing points along the barrier to enable Palestinians to pass. However, even if it does, the barrier will restrict the residents' movement, and even prevent it altogether in many cases, because crossing will be contingent on obtaining movement permits. Israel has arbitrarily denied, time after time, the requests of many Palestinians to obtain movement permits in the West Bank. In any event, these permits become invalid whenever Israel imposes a comprehensive curfew on the Occupied Territories.