Cablegate: Spiegel Briefs Donors On Separation Barrier

Published: Mon 15 Mar 2004 03:47 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
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1. (SBU) Summary. Baruch Spiegel, Israeli coordinator on
humanitarian issues related to the separation barrier, told
donors March 11 that he and his team are trying to find
solutions to a variety of localized problems brought to its
attention and is trying to apply "lessons learned" from
previous mistakes. He said that, based on dialogue with
Palestinian officials and residents, a large number of
changes have been made to the proposed route and opening
times for gates had been increased. Spiegel said his team is
in the process of mapping potential bottlenecks that could be
created by the Jerusalem portion of the barrier and would try
to devise solutions. The legal advisor on Spiegel's team said
there is no intention to permanently confiscate land, calling
the actions taken up to now "temporary seizures" of land, for
which compensation will be given. End Summary.
Spiegel - We're Learning From Past Mistakes
2. (SBU) Spiegel said that his team was tasked to find
solutions to specific problems brought to its attention and
to implement "lessons learned" from areas where the barrier
was built and caused serious problems for local residents.
Spiegel emphasized that he is a "coordinator of fence-related
humanitarian issues," not an "ombudsman" to whom every issue
related to the barrier should be directed. Residents facing
problems caused by the barrier, he said, should contact local
MATAK offices, just as before. He stated, however, that his
team would "deal immediately" with any problems brought to
its attention by NGOs, Palestinian officials or others. His
office is engaged in "intensive dialogues" with Palestinian
officials and residents of several areas affected by the
barrier (he provided no specific details). "We will give
answers," as a result of this dialogue, he said, "and those
answers may result in changes to previous decisions about the
route of the fence." He noted, as an example, the changes to
the route near Baqa al Sharqiya (reftel). He also noted that
opening times for gates around Qalqilya had been extended to
90 minutes, from as little as 20 minutes previously. Spiegel
insisted that complaints about the impact of the barrier on
local residents had decreased markedly. In the past, Spiegel
continued, the humanitarian aspect was not part of the
planning process. Now it is. "We are checking every meter
of the fence and if the humanitarian dimension comes into
play, we are dealing with it."
Focus on Jerusalem
3. (SBU) The most difficult and complicated part of the
route is around Jerusalem, said Spiegel. He said his team
was in the process of mapping "weak points" and bottlenecks
caused by the proposed route near Jerusalem, and would try to
devise solutions. Part of the solution, Spiegel added, might
include new technology that will make passage easier and less
intrusive, perhaps through "smart cards" or other means.
Travel and car permits for travel through crossings around
Jerusalem are "big, complicated issues," he said. He noted
that the police, not the IDF, are responsible for issuing
these permits for Jerusalem entry.
Training is Key
4. (SBU) Spiegel reiterated points he had made to us
previously (reftel) about the importance of training
personnel who will be manning crossing points. His team will
work closely with the IDF and the police, he said. Training
would focus on how to correctly deal with civilians. "A high
standard of service" would be mandated, he said. He said
passing a special exam would eventually be required before
personnel are assigned to these stations. Because of urgent
personnel needs, however, the IDF is making do with "on the
job training" at present.
Legal Aspects
5. (SBU) Spiegel said ten legal petitions about the barrier,
3 general in nature and 7 about particular land issues, had
been received by the Israeli High Court of Justice. The
Israeli authorities were paying very close attention, he
said, to property rights, and had a clear preference to build
on "public land" vs. "private land." In response to
questions from the donors, Michael Bendavid of the
International Law Department of the IDF said that Palestinian
landowners affected by the barrier were entitled to
compensation. Claims that Israel would invoke laws to
confiscate private land were untrue, he said. Specifically,
the GOI would not invoke legal procedures that cause
agriculture land that has been unused for three or more years
to become "public land." To do so would be illegal and in
bad faith, he said. Bendavid said the GOI had "temporarily
seized" some private land to build the barrier, but the land
would be returned after a final peace settlement.
Compensation for private owners, akin to rental payments, he
said, was being set aside. It was IDF experience, he
continued, that owners would eventually come forward and
claim the compensation. (Comment: The donors have good reason
to question Spiegel and Bendavid about the confiscation of
land. In the past, the GOI used laws such as the three-year
rule mentioned above to declare much of the West Bank's land
"public." Indeed some of this "public" land is used as farm
land by Palestinians. Moreover, some land that has been
"temporarily seized" has become de facto permanent GOI
property, subject of course to changes mandated by any future
peace deal. Much of the land used to build by-pass roads for
settlements, for example, was "temporarily seized." End
No Comment on "Depth Barriers"
6. (SBU) Spiegel would not comment on specific route
changes being considered. In response to a question about
secondary fences or "depth barriers," Spiegel said such
decisions were not in his mandate and he would not comment.
7. (SBU) The meeting broke little new ground, but did
provide a forum for key donors to hear directly from Spiegel
about the work of his committee and to raise specific issues
of concern. While several donors continue to worry that these
exchanges suggest a legitimization of the barrier, most
recognize the value of maintaining lines of communication.
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