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High Court Gives Go Ahead to Separation Fence in N. Judea

The High Court of Justice on Thursday rejected a petition against continued construction of the separation barrier in Gush Etzion.
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
First Publish: 8/2/2007, 11:54 PM

The High Court of Justice rejected a petition on Thursday against continued construction
The IDF agreed to cut the fence's protective shoulders by 50%.
of the separation barrier in Gush Etzion, in northern Judea, after the IDF agreed to cut the fence's protective shoulders by 50%.  Palestinian Authority residents who appealed against the fence claimed it was being built on their expropriated farm lands.

"We are satisfied that, under the circumstances, the balance struck by the military commander between the needs of security, the rights of the Israelis and the rights of the Palestinian residents was measured," the High Court's statement read. "The military commander's decision was made after he considered all relevant factors and after he accepted upon himself the standards set by this court in precedent-setting rulings issued in relation to the security fence, and following a detailed examination of the various alternatives."  

The separation barrier is a 790-kilometer (491-mile) fence and wall combination designed to allow greater control over passage between the Palestinian Authority-controlled areas and the rest of Israel. Greater control, it is thought, lessens the ability of PA terrorists to make it into heavily populated Jewish areas to carry out suicide bombings. The effectiveness of the barrier, and its political meaning as an unofficial PA-Israel border, are matters of dispute in Israel.

Justices Dorit Beinish, Ayala Procaccia and Esther Hayot affirmed Thursday that the barrier's path does cut through and expropriate extensive parts of the petitioners' farmland in Gush Etzion. In their decision, the justices said that constructing the fence closer to the homes of the Jewish town of Efrat and leaving a commanding hill to the PA farmers may have caused less disruption for the petitioners; however, noted the court, the IDF said that such a revision would endanger Israeli lives.

"It is evident from the statements of the respondents that, in planning the route of the fence, significant effort was made to limit the impact on the petitioners, without compromising the security purpose of the fence," the justices wrote. "In spite of those efforts, no alternate route was found that satisfies security requirements. The respondents pledged, however, that in the property of the petitioners the construction work on the fence would be cut back to 50 meters west of its current line."

The justices said that the impact of the barrier on the lives and property of the petitioners is proportional to the benefit to be obtained for national security. "There is no dispute that the fence takes up agricultural land privately owned by the petitioners, and thus infringes on their property and livelihood. However, that consideration does not stand alone. Against that consideration stands security considerations, as well as considerations of the impact on other Palestinian residents in any alternate route."

The justices noted that the petitioners proposed alternate fence route would merely cut
The state will fairly compensate the petitioners for their expropriated lands.
through the property of other PA residents, while the military did not see an alternate route as providing the same level of security. The IDF, according to the High Court, took all the relevant considerations into account in a way "that does not justify our interference." The state will fairly compensate the petitioners for their expropriated lands, the court noted, as well as limiting the infringement of the petitioners' property from 100 to 50 meters, and allow them access to their lands without need of an Israeli permit.

More than 30 petitions to the High Court of Justice against the legality of remaining sections of the separation barrier have yet to be adjudicated. Most of the uncompleted portions of the project are in heavily populated areas near Jerusalem and Gush Etzion. Environmentalists are also appealing against continuation of the project in the southern Hevron Hills, where the Judean Desert is mostly uninhabited except for wildlife and where it extends all the way to the Dead Sea.