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Israel's High Court Approves Jerusalem Barrier Construction

Israel's High Court has approved construction of a controversial section of the separation barrier between Jerusalem and the West Bank. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, Israelis are hailing the decision and Palestinians are condemning it.

The Israeli Supreme Court gave the green light for construction of the separation barrier in northeast Jerusalem, rejecting an appeal by Arab residents of the area. The case was held up in the courts for more than two years.

The decision means that 55,000 Arab residents of Jerusalem, with Israeli identity cards, will be on the other side of the fence.

Mohammed Dahle is a lawyer for the petitioners.

It is simply a total nightmare, Dahle told Israel Radio. He said the wall cuts Arab residents off from businesses, schools, work places and hospitals and is a major economic blow.

But the high court said that Arab residents of Jerusalem would be allowed to enter the city through designated border crossings. It ruled that security is the most important factor and the aim of the barrier is to protect Israelis from Palestinian suicide bombers.

Israeli analyst Dan Schueftan says the barrier is of major strategic importance, and it is high time that construction becomes priority number one.

"But unfortunately, it is going very, very slowly, one of the major reasons being the Supreme Court constantly intervening in every micro detail of the fence," he said. "But we could have finished it much, much faster if people realized that this is today the most important national effort that needs to be undertaken."

Palestinians say it is an apartheid-like wall and a land grab. In 2004, the World Court in the Hague ruled that the barrier is illegal under international law and should be torn down.