Defense Minister Amir Peretz on Monday ordered a review of the planned route of Israel's security barrier after President of the Supreme Court Aharon Barak accused the state of allowing non security-related factors to influence the barrier's route.
Peretz ordered Director General of the Defense Ministry Kobi Toran to review both portions of the barrier that have already been built as well as planned portions to ensure that their routes are based on security considerations alone. Sources close to Peretz said that it was not out of the question that the Defense Ministry would demand changes to the barrier's route as a result of the investigation, as has already happened in the past.
"In no small number of places the [barrier's only] objective is indeed annexation," said Res. Colonel Shaul Arieli, a member of the Committee for Peace and Safety, in an interview with Army Radio.
Akram Hativ, a resident of the Arab town of Bil'in who has been protesting against the barrier for 15 months, said that the decision to review the barrier's route is a victory in his struggle. "We are fighting against the barrier and against the construction of settlements. We will fight until this barrier moves back [from our village]. This isn't a barrier for the protection of the State of Israel, but rather for building [more] settlements."
Last Thursday, the High Court of Justice ordered that a five-kilometer stretch of the barrier near the Israeli settlement of Tzufin be torn down. The project, which includes building an alternate section of the barrier, is expected to cost tens of millions of shekels.
The Court sharply reprimanded the government for supplying only "partially true" information for the route of the security barrier 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 barrier 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 barrier and restore 1,000 dunams of land, including 650 dunams owned by Palestinian farmers, to the West Bank side of the barrier.
The fence around Tzufin, which became operational in 2003, will be torn down and rebuilt much closer to the settlement.