(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The High Court of Justice made it clear on Tuesday that it would reject a petition by the village of Jayus to move the separation barrier to the Green Line in order to enable farmers direct access to their lands.
In response to a High Court verdict on an earlier petition by the Palestinian village against the original barrier route, the state prepared a new route which restores 2,400 dunams of land to the West Bank side of the barrier.
However, the petitioners complained that despite the improvement, 71 percent of all the land belonging to the villagers was still situated on the "Israeli" side of the barrier. Of 640 families who depend on the land for a living, the land of 311 is located on the "Israeli" side of the barrier. As a result, 40% of the village lives under the poverty line.
The state insisted that it could not build the barrier on the Green Line because it needed a safety area to protect Kochav Yair, which straddles the Green Line. The western boundary of the barrier runs parallel to the Green Line and 800 meters west of it.
The state's representative, Avi Licht, said that in principle, the army required a safety distance of 400 meters between the barrier and Jewish communities to give security forces time to mobilize in case terrorists breach the barrier.
In the case of Kochav Yair and Jayus, the proposed route of the new barrier was 800 meters from Kochav Yair because the area in between was farmland which would be badly damaged if the boundary went straight through it.
Beinisch made clear that she accepted the state's position on its security needs. She pressed the villagers to explain what was wrong with the system of gates that allowed villagers with permits from the Civil Administration to cross the barrier and cultivate their farmland on the "Israeli" side.
The villagers maintained that many had trouble obtaining permits, that even when they had permits, the army made it difficult for them to cross the barrier, and that many farmers had to walk long distances to reach their farmland because the gates were far away from where they lived.
Licht, however, told the court that an average of 40-60 villagers a day crossed the barrier's main gate, which was open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., even though 320 villagers had permits. Only 30 villagers used another gate that was open three times day for half an hour each time, even though 439 had permits to access their lands.
Beinisch told the petitioners that instead of insisting that the barrier be moved to the Green Line, they should concentrate on improving their access to their land under the given circumstances.
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