High Court orders change in sec. fence

Accuses State of supplying only partially true information on the route.

Gush barrier 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Gush barrier 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The High Court of Justice on Thursday sharply reprimanded the government for supplying only "partially true" information for the route of the security fence around the settlement of Tzufin, in response to a petition in 2002. In doing so, the court accepted a new petition against the route filed in 2005 by the head of the municipal council of Azun, the head of the village council of Nebi Elias and the human rights organization Moked in Defense of the Individual. The petition challenged the route of the fence stretching south and east of Tzufin, which extends 2.5 kilometers beyond the built-up area of the settlement. Even before the government handed down its ruling on Thursday, the state announced it would build a new fence and restore 1,000 dunams of land, including 650 dunams owned by Palestinian farmers, to the West Bank side of the fence. The fence around Tzufin, which became operational in 2003, will be torn down and rebuilt much closer to the settlement. In defending the route against the first petition, the army had claimed that the route was determined solely for security reasons, and was meant not only to protect Tzufin, but also to overlook part of Highway 55, linking Israel with the settlement of Kedumim and with Nablus. The petitioners' attorney Michael Sfard charged in the new petition that the government had determined the fence route around Tzufin to include an empty area which, according to the outline plan for Tzufin, was due to be turned into an industrial area. In its response, the state eventually admitted that the petitioners were correct, adding that if the fence route were to be planned now, it would not extend so far east. The state also told the court that it was issuing land seizure orders for a new fence route west of the existing one, which would leave 1,000 dunams of land, including 650 dunams of privately owned Palestinian land, on the West Bank side of the barrier. The state also promised to eventually tear down the existing fence. In the court decision, Supreme Court President Aharon Barak wrote that "in the petition before us, we discovered a very grave development. In the first petition, the entire picture was not presented to us. "The court rejected the petition on the basis of information which was only partially true." In other developments on Thursday, the High Court decided to hear seven petitions against the route of the fence around Gush Etzion before an expanded bench of seven justices. Barak said the fence around the 10 settlements and five Palestinian villages in the bloc contained a new concept of "spatial" protection rather than the protection of individual communities, and therefore required greater court consensus. The court also heard a petition against the route of the fence separating the Palestinian town of Beit Jala from the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo. The fence extends into West Bank territory in order to include the Har Gilo field school on the "Israeli" side. In doing so, the fence separates Palestinian farmers in Beit Jala from hundreds of dunams of their land. But Barak made it clear that most of the privately owned land was located on the Israeli side of the Jerusalem municipal boundary and that the Palestinian farmers were not entitled to free access to their fields even if the route were shifted in the direction of Gilo.