High Court contests security barrier

State must justify proposed route around Wallaja.

Seperation barrier Jerusalem (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Seperation barrier Jerusalem
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The High Court of Justice on Sunday issued a show cause order instructing the state to justify its position that a land seizure order, issued in 2006 to build a section of the security barrier, was still valid even though the segment had not yet been built. The state was also asked to explain why the route of the barrier should not be changed.
The show cause order came in response to a petition filed by the Palestinian village council of Wallaja, which is located in southwest Jerusalem on the border with the West Bank.
The petitioners, represented by attorney Giath Nassir, argued that more than three years had passed since the land seizure order was issued, and therefore the order had expired. As a result, the state allegedly had no legal basis to build the barrier.
The petitioners charged that the barrier would hem them in on three sides, leaving them access only to the West Bank.
According to the Jerusalem municipal borders, Wallaja is located inside the city’s boundaries.
Nassir also represented a Wallaja resident, Jamal Bargouth, who charged that the barrier would cut across his family’s graveyard, leaving part of it on the “Israeli” side and the rest on the West Bank side.
The attorney told the panel of three justices – Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, Hanan Meltzer and Uzi Fogelman – that the army had determined the barrier’s route around Wallaja in 2002, before the landmark High Court decision saying the entire route had to take into consideration the difficulties it would cause Palestinians, and that security and human rights had to be properly balanced.
He also charged that the state had ignored the court ruling.
“The route is a scandal,” he told the court. “It cannot stand.” The planned barrier would be so close to houses that it would leave villagers “no room to breathe.”
Nassir also complained that the proposed route would place the built-up area of the village on the West Bank-side, and its agricultural land on the other side. In addition, he argued that construction along the planned route would cause severe environmental damage to the farming terraces that both the Nature and Parks Authority and UNESCO had designated as preservation areas.
The state asked the court to reject the Wallaja petitions on grounds of late submission, since the land seizure order had been issued four years earlier and the route had been approved. In fact, all of the land seizure orders for the barrier surrounding Wallaja had already undergone judicial examination and been approved, the state’s representative, Hani Ofek, told the court.
Ofek explained that as soon as the disputed land seizure order had been issued in 2006, authorities began working on the barrier route. It was only in 2008 that work stopped because government funding had been transferred to the North to repair damage caused by the Second Lebanon War.
She argued that the only legitimate argument offered by the petitioners had been whether the state acted properly when it renewed the land seizure order retroactively in order to overcome the three-year limit on the original order’s validity.
Ofek said the villagers filed their petitions only after they saw that the state was resuming construction in early 2010.
But the petitioners argued that they believed the land seizure order had expired, and saw no reason to take legal action until they actually saw the bulldozers returning.