Construction of the West Bank security barrier will be completed by the end of 2008, a senior defense official involved in the project told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. The Defense Ministry has completed 402 kilometers of the barrier, and 106 kilometers are currently under construction. The official said another 240 kilometers is currently tied up in court by some 40 petitions and also by the Justice Ministry, which is currently examining every stretch of the barrier which is before the court.
High Court: A-Ram fence is our defense
The final route of the barrier has been approved by the cabinet, including two finger-shaped enclaves surrounding the settlements of Ariel and Karnei Shomron.
Among the most complicated sections are the ones slated to surround the Gush Etzion settlement bloc and Ma'ale Adumim, said the senior defense official.
Retired Supreme Court president Aharon Barak wrote on Wednesday that 115 petitions against the route of the barrier or related issues have been submitted to the High Court of Justice.
The court has finished dealing with 69 of them, including 41 that ended with rulings and 28 that ended in compromise arrangements between the sides. The court still has to deal with 46 petitions.
The barrier project suffered a blow when former Justice Minister Haim Ramon resigned his cabinet post to stand trial on charges of sexual misconduct.
Ramon, who regarded himself as the "father" of the security barrier, established a follow-up committee to monitor progress in the construction of the barrier and work to unravel obstructions. After Ramon left the cabinet, the committee ceased to exist.
One of the most pressing issues still before the High Court deals with Matityahu East, a large residential project in Modi'in Illit. According to the petition, the building permits for the project were issued illegally in accordance with an outline plan that had not been approved. Dozens of apartments were already occupied when the petition was filed, and many other finished apartments are currently standing empty as a result of the petition.
The petitioners have also charged that the route of the fence in the area was determined not by security considerations, but in order to surround empty land which is slated for future settlement development.
Residents of the nearby village of Bili'n claim that the land upon which Matityahu East is being built belongs to them. They have been holding weekly protests against the barrier for almost two years.