Another fence ruling - with a twist

Petition claims gov't changed route for corporation's benefit.

security fence 298 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
security fence 298 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The High Court of Justice will have to determine the point of equilibrium between the conflicting rights of the Palestinian residents of Ni'lin, the rights of a real estate development company called Philodendrum 12, and Israeli security needs, it emerged Wednesday during a hearing on a petition filed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI). ACRI filed the petition on behalf of residents of the Palestinian village of Ni'lin, northwest of Modi'in Illit, charging that the planned route of the barrier would separate the villagers from half their agricultural land which would end up on the "Israeli" side. The petitioners charged that the army determined the barrier route not on the basis of legitimate security needs but under pressure from Philodendrum 12. According to ACRI attorney Avner Pinchuk, the original route in the Ni'lin area approved by the government included the land purchased by Philodendrum 12 on the "Israeli" side of the barrier. However, in the wake of the landmark Beit Sourik ruling in 2004, the army made many changes in the route in accordance with the principles established by the court. The court ruled that in determining the route of the fence, the military commander had to take into account the welfare of the Palestinian population under belligerent occupation as well as Israeli security needs and find the right balance between the two in each individual case. The change in the route suggested by the army in the Ni'lin area would have meant that Philodendrum could not build its apartments. ACRI argued that the company pressured the government into returning to the original route not for security needs but out of concern for the company's financial interests. During the hearing, Philodendrum 12 lawyer, Ra'anan Har Zahav, maintained that the High Court also had to take into account the basic rights of the developers, including their property rights, in deciding whether to accept or reject the petition. The court, headed by Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, did not hand down a ruling at the end of the long hearing. The High Court is currently considering several other petitions charging that the route of the barrier in certain areas was determined on the basis of plans for the future expansion of existing settlements, rather than the protection of those already living in the West Bank.