Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - With this decision, "Israel wants to tighten the security screws. However, its policy of divide and rule and grabs of Palestinian land are utter non-sense, and do not help the peace process,” said Prof Bernard Sabella, a Catholic Fatah representative in Jerusalem who is also executive secretary of the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees of the Middle East Council of Churches
In a surprise decision, the Israeli Supreme Court yesterday issued a decision granting Israel’s Defence Ministry and the Israeli Defence Forces the green light to build a new section of the separation wall in Cremisan Valley near Beit Jala.
For Prof Sabella, expropriating land to build a wall “goes against the human rights and legitimate claims of Palestinians”. The judges’ decision gives way to more nationalist policies by Israel’s hard-line Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for whom the wall is a guarantee against possible terrorist attacks.
According to some, the ruling might be a response to the recent signing of a Comprehensive Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Palestine. However, Prof Sabella is sceptical. In fact, in his view, the decision is simply the "continuation of Israel’s policy of land expropriation” and is unrelated to “the decision taken by the Holy See."
For the Catholic intellectual and political leader, this decision “is very disturbing”. It “further denies the principle of justice” for the people of Palestine.
In the name of security, "they [the Israelis] have alienated the land," he said. This shows that "Israel lacks the courage to pursue a real policy of peace. They do not care whether their projects and programmes breed resentment. Their ultimate goal is security and this trumps the rights of the [Palestinian] people."
The Court's ruling overturns one made last April, which should have put an end to a dispute that has lasted at least eight years. At that time, the judges had rejected the wall, but some legal experts, who spoke to AsiaNews, noted that the Court had not stopped the project but merely "clarified some of its terms". Now Israel will be able to restart construction, after making minor adjustments to the original plan.
Now the area is going to be divided. The local school and the two Salesians convents will remain in Palestinian territory, and will be accessible through Beit Jala; by contrast, farmland owned by 58 local Palestinian villages in Cremisan Valley will come under direct Israeli control.
In the past, representatives of the Catholic Churches in the Holy Land had slammed the idea of a wall through the Cremisan Valley, a proposition ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004.
As it goes up, the wall is a threat to the survival of 58 Christian families in the Palestinian village of Beit Jala whose livelihood depends largely on 300 hectares of land that will remain on the other side of the wall.
At the same time, the community will not only lose one of its last major agricultural and recreational area, but will also be cut off from various sources of drinking water, which are vital to irrigate crops.
Located a few kilometres from Bethlehem and famous for its wine production and olive groves, the Cremisan Valley is considered a green lung for nearby villages, characterised by overcrowding and lack of water.
Dividing the territory further will deprive Palestinians of an income, and will contribute to the exodus of Christians from the Holy Land. (DS)