Four petitions against a popular plan to build a cable car to Jerusalem's historic Old City were denied by the High Court on Sunday, effectively closing down the legal option for critics of the proposal.
Justice Yosef Elron wrote on behalf of a three-judge panel, saying the court's role was to intercede in making strategic decisions only if the planning was shown to be flawed and the planners had made judgments based on various external factors or went beyond their responsibilities.
Elron wrote that the Tourism Ministry's decision to refer the project to the National Infrastructure Committee was without flaws, that the committee was given sufficient facts, that the project met the definitions of both tourism and transportation, and that the Transportation Ministry was sufficiently involved in the decisions.
Contrary to the petitioners, Elron and the other two justices, Alex Stein and Anat Baron, ruled that an adequate investigation of alternatives had been conducted.
Elron made no mention of a widely panned traffic study and concluded that a cable car would be easier and faster to install than a light-rail alternative. He did not go into any depth on the protests of Silwan residents and Old City store owners.
He also found no need to intervene in the Karaite community's claims, noting that talks between the former and the Jerusalem Development Company had broken down and calling for them to be reopened. He noted that the Jerusalem Development Company has offered to relocate impacted graves as well as move the cable car lines away from the busy area of the cemetery.
Furthermore, he concluded that the government and the National Infrastructure Committee struck a "proper and proportionate" balance between the interest of protecting the honor of the dead and the public interest inherent in implementing the plan, with no "practical possibility" of moving the line even further than offered and no damage expected to the graves themselves.
Petitioners Says It's Culturally Inappropriate
The Emek Shaveh organization, which has led the campaign against the cable car, accused the court of taking a political stance, saying the public campaign against it was "only just begun."
The decision to create a cable car should not have been made without a thorough assessment of other historic cities, according to Eli Ben Ari, the legal counsel to Adam Teva V'Din, another of the petitioners against the idea. According to him, no other city would have ventured to erect a cable car so near to ancient city walls if such a survey had been conducted.
Elron agreed with the petitioners' fundamental contention that a cable car would be inappropriate for the terrain and surroundings surrounding the Old City. "This is a complex issue," he wrote, "requiring a delicate balance between a wide range of considerations."
However, it was evident that any solution to the problem, from more shuttle buses to doing nothing at all, would come at a cost. He discovered that while there was "no perfect solution," the planning authorities had decided to permit the cable car despite the challenges.