Israeli plan could keep Palestinians out of west Jerusalem

Wednesday, January 30, 2002

JERUSALEM -- Israeli officials presented a plan Tuesday to tighten security in Jerusalem, possibly including erecting barriers and checkpoints to keep Palestinians out of the Jewish side of the city, scene of two deadly attacks in the past week.

No decision was reached on the proposals, which came as police reinforcements flooded the eerily quiet downtown section, inspecting some of the few pedestrians on oft-targeted Jaffa Street, the city's landmark shopping strip.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces continued their operations against militant groups, arresting three suspects and wounding six Palestinians in raids in the West Bank and Gaza.

Frequent attacks in Jerusalem have led to calls to tighten the closure that keeps most West Bank Palestinians out of the city and also to find a way to limit the access of east Jerusalem Palestinians to the city's Jewish western side.

The latter concept is politically delicate in Israel, since it annexed east Jerusalem shortly after seizing it from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war and claims the entire city as its capital. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as their capital.

Any division would also pose logistical complications, since Israel has built Jewish neighborhoods all around the eastern sector, where about 200,000 Jews live -- a number about equal to the city's Palestinian population. Creating a clean dividing line would be difficult.

Opposed physical division

Security experts on Tuesday offered Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a plan that includes patrols, fences and checkpoints. The Haaretz daily and Israel TV said the national security council chief, Maj. Gen. Uzi Dayan, proposed building a nearly 7-mile-long wall.

But in a statement, Sharon opposed any physical division and said "the plan must be treated as a whole, covering the Jewish and Arab neighborhoods alike." He said it would include some Arab villages that fall under Palestinian civilian but Israeli security control; their legal status would not be changed.

Sharon aide Raanan Gissin admitted there would probably also be security checks, fences and "some kind" of checkpoints in some areas inside the city as well. But Public Security Minister Uzi Landau told Israel TV the main goal was to keep West Bank Palestinians out of Jerusalem.

On Sunday, a bomber set off an explosive charge, killing herself and an 81-year-old Israeli man and injuring dozens. A few days earlier, a Palestinian gunman opened fire nearby, killing two women.

The usually bustling open air market in Jerusalem was practically empty Tuesday. Shopkeeper Yossi Cohen, 29, said morale is low and feared there was no way to stop suicide bombers. "All those extra soldiers," he said, are "a waste of money."

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