Barrier no bar to building spree

When peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians broke down in the year 2000, Palestinians switched to a strategy of violent "resistance".

The first Intifada (1987-1993) was an uprising against Israeli occupation. The second Intifada - which began in 2000 - comprised a series of attacks against Israeli civilians.

Most of these attacks occurred in Jerusalem. To protect its citizens, Israel erected a "security barrier" to prevent suicide bombers from infiltrating the city. But this barrier - a concrete wall up to 8m high in sections - runs an erratic course. Often far from municipal boundaries, it severs Palestinian neighbourhoods like Kafr Aqeb from the city centre.

Inadvertently, the wall became a tool to implement a policy first formulated in 1967 after Israel conquered all of Jerusalem and annexed parts of 28 Arab communities abutting the city.

Its aim is to maintain a sizeable Jewish majority in the city to prevent partition of "Israel's eternal capital". Palestinians demand the city's eastern part for their state.

Israel tried to ensure Jews remain in the majority in spite of higher birth rates among the Arabs by curtailing the rights of Palestinians to build within the city.

But beyond the municipal boundaries, the authorities tend to turn a blind eye to building violations. This tactic led to a building spree that lured Arabs out of the city, and served Israeli interests.

The security establishment is against moving the wall to avoid demolition in Kafr Aqeb. "Nobody wants to start a new confrontation, but the army thinks it will be very dangerous to change the course of the wall," one source said.

Gil Yaron

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 26, 2017, with the headline 'Barrier no bar to building spree'. Print Edition | Subscribe