The High Court of Justice on Thursday rejected a petition protesting a government land seizure order to enable construction of the security barrier east and southeast of Efrat in Gush Etzion. The order calls for the seizure of 152 dunams from a plot of 272 dunams of fertile agricultural land belonging to the Takatka family, who petitioned against it. The petitioners, represented by Attorney Osama Halabi, charged that the state favored the needs of the settlement of Efrat over the needs of the Palestinian residents and that the land seizure caused injury to their property, dignity, livelihood and freedom of movement. They also refuted the state's argument that the barrier was required for security reasons on the grounds that protecting the residents of settlements built on occupied territory contrary to international law did not constitute "security needs." The state argued that the route of the barrier was necessary for security and topographic reasons. As it was, the barrier would be built only 200-300 meters from Efrat. At the urging of the Court during a hearing on March 18, the state tried to find an alternative route that would cause less harm to the Palestinians. However, none of the alternatives it came up with were as good as the original one, government officials told the Court. In their ruling, a panel of three justices including Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and Judges Ayala Procaccia and Esther Hayut, said the military commander was authorized to seize control of land, including privately owned land, to protect the Jewish settlers. Whether or not they were living there legally or not was a different question. It did not affect the obligation of the military commander to protect them as long as they were there. "The underlying factor in building the barrier is for security needs," said Beinisch, who wrote the ruling. "The barrier is meant to prevent the infiltration of terrorists from Judea and Samaria into Israel - the route is based on security considerations regarding the need to protect the safety and security of the residents of Efrat." Beinisch added that the damage caused to the Palestinians by the construction of the fence was proportional to the contribution the separation barrier made to the security needs of the Jewish civilian population.