Petition: Fence route forcing 'transfer'

Rights group: Alfei Menashe residents "trapped" on Israeli side of barrier.

Gush barrier 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Gush barrier 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The state is hoping that Palestinians living in two villages inside the Alfei Menashe enclave will move deeper into the West Bank after allegedly being put in an impossible situation by the proposed new route of the separation barrier that traps them on the "Israeli" side, a High Court petition filed Tuesday charged. The petition, filed by The Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Palestinian residents of five villages near Alfei Menashe, objected to the new route proposed by the army to replace the original route of the barrier which had already been constructed. On September 15, 2005, the High Court of Justice rejected the original route and ordered the state to dismantle the barrier and rebuild it elsewhere, so that it would cause less damage to the 1,200 Palestinians living in the five villages inside the enclave. The villages include Arab a-Ramadan, Arab Abu Farde, Wadi a-Rasha, Ja'arat a-Dara and Hirbet Ras a-Tira. In its ruling, the extended panel of justices suggested that "the alternative, by which the enclave will contain only Alfei Menashe and a connecting road to Israel, while moving the existing road connecting Alfei Menashe to Israel to another location in the south of the enclave, should be examined." But the state did not take the court's advice. The new route left two of the villages, Arab a-Ramadan and Arab Abu Farde, inside the enclave on the "Israeli" side of the barrier. Attorney Michael Sfard, representing the petitioners, charged that the two villages could not sustain themselves within the enclave. He warned that they would suffer even more under the new route than the original one in terms of income, freedom of movement, medical care, education, religious services and residency permits. They had received some of these services in Palestinian towns and cities beyond the barrier, and from the other three villages within the enclave. Now that the barrier will cut them off from the three villages, their situation would be even graver. "As for those two villages which were not removed from the enclave, the solution being formulated by the security system, without any shame, is one of transferring the population," Sfard charged. "Even if this strategy is described as 'voluntary' and 'consensual' move, in fact it means applying pressure against those weaker villages and the fulfillment of what we warned about in our first petition, an immoral and illegal transfer of protected civilians from their lands." Sfard added that the three villages which would be removed from the enclave would also suffer because many of their agricultural lands would remain on the "Israeli" side of the barrier. He also charged that the route of the barrier was meant not only to protect the settlers of Alfei Menashe, but also to provide protection for two planned residential neighborhoods, one of which had not been built at all, and the other is only now under construction.