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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.