Haaretz: “Court rejects petition to change route of J’lem envelope fence”
by Yuval Yoaz, November 26th
An expanded panel of nine High Court of Justice judges, headed by retired Supreme Court president Aharon Barak, on Sunday rejected petitions claiming the route of the West Bank separation fence near the village of Bir Naballah, north of Jerusalem, is illegal.
The judges said they were persuaded the route of the fence is based on security considerations rather than political motivations.
The judges noted, however, that the present petitions did not fully examine the ‘gates regime,’ under which the army has promised to operate agricultural gates that would allow farmers to pass in order to work on their lands.
“The petitioners retain the right to petition the court again if they are not satisfied by the arrangements in place,” the judges’ statement said.
The fence near Bir Naballah is part of the “Jerusalem envelope,” the section of the separation fence surrounding Jerusalem.
The “Bir Naballah enclave” was formed when the north section of the Jerusalem envelope was erected, leaving five villages – Bir Naballah, Beit Hanina, El-Jib, Al-Jadira, Qalandiyah – trapped between the fence’s route and Jerusalem’s municipal border.
The five villages have a total population of about 16,500 residents, some of whom carry Israeli identification cards.
The fence encircles the five villages, but roads are being paved to connect them to the areas of Ramallah and Beit Surik in the West Bank, in order to preserve the residents’ way of life. The roads are scheduled for completion within a month.
Three of the petitions were presented by residents of the villages, who claim the fence violates international law and goes against the High Court ruling that found parts of the fence near Beit Surik and the Alfei Menashe settlement to be illegal.
The Council for Peace and Security proposed an alternative route for the fence, but it was rejected as well.
“We don’t have the liberty of preferring the notion of security proposed by the Council for Peace and Security – we must place the military commander’s opinion at the root of our verdict,” Barak said.
“It is clear the military commander went to great efforts in planning the fence in a manner that would limit the harm to the residents of the Bir Naballah enclave as much as possible.”
Barak admitted that were the roads not being paved, the court’s decision on the Bir Naballah enclave would match its decision on the Alfei Menashe enclave, branding the fence invalid.
The petitioners claimed that the considerations behind the fence are political rather than security-minded, and that the fence’s purpose is to “annex Givat Ze’ev and the nearby Israeli communities to the jurisdiction of Jerusalem.”
The roads being paved would, in their opinion, would have “demeaning results and lead to a reality of a ruling people and a ruled people; a people driving on highways and a people imprisoned behind fences, with driving trenches and sunken roads.”
The High Court also rejected petitions by Givat Ze’ev residents and their municipality demanding that the fence be pushed farther from their territory, into the Arab villages.