The construction of the separation wall in Jerusalem is arguably the most significant Israeli action to impact the city's Palestinian residents since the start of Israeli rule in 1967. The wall produces a new urban reality in Palestinian Jerusalem, and reduces the city, with its complex relationships, to an entity with two dimensions: inside and outside. The resulting creation may critically endanger the peace process, harm residents and risk further destabilization in the city.

The Wall in Jerusalem

In 2002, in the wake of the second intifada and following a series of attacks that killed over 650 Israelis in two years, Israel's Ministerial Committee for National Security decided to create a barrier along the West Bank. More than 150 kilometers of the 760-kilometer wall will wind into and around Jerusalem.
Although the catalyst behind the construction of the wall was security and this remains its officially stated purpose, its route in Jerusalem betrays additional considerations.1
The route of the wall follows, for the most part, Jerusalem's municipal line. In 1967, after its victory in the Six Day War, Israel expanded the city's municipal boundary - then only 38 square kilometers - to include 70 additional square kilometers of West Bank territory. It incorporated what had been Jordanian Jerusalem, an area of some 6 square kilometers, plus 28 outlying villages, nearly tripling the city's size. The new city line reflected Israel's twin desires to increase control of Jerusalem through the addition of territory to the city, while maintaining a strong Jewish majority. Today, the wall's placement along the city line signals Israel's continued control of the entire Jerusalem municipal area.
At the same time, the wall cuts inside the city in a number of places and thereby de facto reduces the number of Palestinian residents in Jerusalem. Two of the neighborhoods excised by the wall, the Shu'fat Refugee camp area and Kafr Aqab-Semiramis, are home to some 55,000 Jerusalem residents, or approximately one quarter of Jerusalem's Palestinian population. They are today separated from the city by the wall.
In addition, the wall will encircle 164 square kilometers of West Bank territory and connect it to metropolitan Jerusalem. This land is outside Jerusalem's municipal line and extends well beyond existing Israeli settlements in the area. The wall will connect the city to the Israeli settlement blocs of Gush Etzion in the south, Ma'ale Adumim in the east, and Givat Ze'ev in the north.

Potential Impact of the Wall on a Bilateral Agreement

The impact of these changes is stark. Palestinian Jerusalem is effectively cut off from its periphery in the West Bank. This is achieved both literally through construction of a concrete barrier between the two, and through the expansion of Israeli control over territory in the West Bank. Likewise, Jerusalem Palestinians are increasingly restricted from travel to and in the West Bank.
Existing Israeli neighborhoods in East Jerusalem such as French Hill, Neve Yaakov and Pisgat Ze'ev, considered settlements by the international community, already ring Palestinian Jerusalem to the east. Development is planned for additional areas, including the stretch of land between Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim known as "E-1." This strategic area straddles the "bridge" of land between the Jerusalem municipal line and a large bloc of West Bank territory the wall will attach to Jerusalem. As this and other areas like it are developed, Palestinian East Jerusalem will effectively be separated from the West Bank by Israeli neighborhoods.
In addition, the control of West Bank territory by Israel divides Palestinian territory into sections. The "E-1" area referred to above creates a band of Israeli-controlled territory that straddles the waist of the West Bank. The resulting bisection destroys the territorial contiguity between the north and south of the West Bank, thereby undermining the viability of a future Palestinian state. This is one of the reasons that development in the "E-1" area has generated international protest. Even those who are considered strong supporters of Israel, such as the U.S., have voiced their objection.

Changing Urban Patterns

In addition to its impact on future political negotiations, the wall is contributing to a shift in urban population patterns in Jerusalem. Prior to the 1990s, for West Bank residents and Palestinian Jerusalemites alike, the municipal boundary on Jerusalem's east side constituted of a formal demarcation without physical expression. Palestinian residents of Jerusalem moved freely between Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israeli policy, both directly or indirectly, even encouraged Palestinian Jerusalemites to move out of the city into Jerusalem's periphery. Partly as a result, Jerusalem's Palestinian suburbs have developed tremendously since 1967.
Starting in the early 1990s, Israel began to introduce restrictions on the access of West Bank residents to Jerusalem. These changes came about partly in response to the first intifada and the first Gulf War. Later, the permit system that accompanied the Oslo process enshrined these restrictions and formally prohibited West Bank residents from entering Jerusalem without a permit. In addition, in the late 1990s the Ministry of Interior began to enforce, on a widespread scale, the expiration of exit visas granted to Palestinian Jerusalemites living abroad or in the West Bank and Gaza. This resulted in their loss of permanent resident status if they resided outside the city for seven consecutive years.
In order to avoid loss of their status, Palestinian Jerusalemites began to move back inside the Jerusalem municipal boundary. Now, the wall's construction is increasing this phenomenon. In order to avoid checkpoints and any future risk to their residency status, Palestinians living outside the city line are returning to the city, and Jerusalemites separated from the city by the wall are also seeking to move to the city center.
Jerusalem's Palestinian residents are moving into both Israeli and Palestinian neighborhoods. While precise numbers are unavailable, initial reports indicate that movement of Palestinian families into "Jewish" neighborhoods in Jerusalem is, on the whole, increasing as a result of construction of the wall. This not only contradicts Israel's ostensible goal in constructing the wall - to separate between Israelis and Palestinians - but also potentially increases tensions in these neighborhoods and amplifies interdependence.
The net effect is an increase in overcrowding and additional pressure on the infrastructure and economy of East Jerusalem.

Impact on Economy

Land prices are impacted as well. On one hand, high demand for property inside the wall is inflating real estate values. On the other hand, weaker communities are being left behind and property values in areas outside the wall are plummeting. The newly vacant properties are attractive places of residence for West Bank residents whose access to Jerusalem, because of a lack of permits, is in any case limited.
In addition, restricted movement between Jerusalem and the West Bank is damaging the Palestinian Jerusalem economy. While these restrictions predated the construction of the wall, the wall has exacerbated the situation.
For example, Jerusalem businesses rely on consumers, workers and products from the West Bank. While restrictions during the 1990s began to limit such access, construction of the wall has sharpened this phenomenon. As a result, small businesses are closing.
Likewise, Jerusalem's Palestinian institutions are suffering. Already in the 1990s, many important institutions relocated to Ramallah. After the start of the second intifada, Israel closed additional organizations, including Orient House and the Chamber of Commerce. The wall further harms the situation because it separates workers and clients from the remaining institutions; schools and hospitals are particularly affected. Consequently, professional employment opportunities in East Jerusalem are on the decline.
As a result, Palestinian Jerusalem's middle class is leaving the city. This phenomenon is hardly new, but it is gathering momentum. While the exodus of some Palestinian Jerusalemites may be more than matched, at least numerically, by the return of so many others, the strength of Jerusalem's economy is disproportionately affected when business owners leave.
In addition, increased housing prices and waning consumer power are contributing to impoverishment in the community. East Jerusalem's Palestinian population relied on its access to Israeli salaries and benefits, on the one hand, and to West Bank markets on the other. That access is dramatically reduced as a result of the wall, and residents' buying power is therefore diminished significantly.
Removed from the larger Palestinian entity that provided them an economic outlet, many East Jerusalem Palestinians now find themselves on the lowest rung of the Israeli socio-economic ladder, without the same access to the resources provided by the West Bank, and with very limited access to public Israeli resources.

Impact on Security

The wall was ostensibly constructed as a security measure. However, its impact on the ground may undermine its very goals.
In an urban environment, security is multi-dimensional. It arises not only from the ability to foil attackers but rather, at least in part, from the interest of the communities concerned in maintaining stability. It may be this interest that is most undermined by the construction of the wall.
Relative stability has characterized the security situation in Jerusalem since 1967. To the degree that the wall's very presence contributes to instability, its effectiveness is reduced. The wall as currently implemented will likely increase unemployment, welfare dependency and economic instability; will contribute to overcrowding inside Jerusalem; will reduce access to services; will further impinge on freedom of worship; and will severely compromise the freedom of movement of Palestinian residents in the area. These ills, in turn, may reduce the stake of residents in a stable Jerusalem.
Should this stability be compromised, the results could be disastrous. In many parts of Jerusalem, Jews and Palestinians live in close proximity to each other. The wall will not, in and of itself, obstruct or diminish the impact of gunfire or missiles. Moreover, Israel decided on the route of the wall unilaterally, outside of a negotiated process with the Palestinian Authority. In fact, Israel would argue that the wall is its answer to the breakdown of negotiations and the failure of the peace process to end violence against Israeli citizens. To the degree, however, that Israeli actions augment feelings of lack of control and despair among Jerusalem's Palestinian residents, the wall may poison the atmosphere for productive future negotiations.


Under current conditions, Jerusalem's ability to serve as the future capital of the Palestinian people is compromised. The Palestinian sector in Jerusalem is weakened, socially and economically. This may result in increased poverty and an unstable security environment. Changing population patterns likewise affect future negotiations. As Jerusalem is increasingly disconnected from its West Bank hinterland and the community inside it weakened, Israel's long-term interests are undermined.