The High Court of Justice on Thursday ordered the Israel Defense Forces to dismantle a small barrier that runs along 41 km in the southern West Bank, following a petition submitted by Palestinian residents and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
The 82 cm-high barrier was built along the road connecting the settlements of Carmel and Tene in the Hebron Mount area, after a High Court ruling on the route of the planned Separation Fence left the settlements on its Palestinian side.
In their petition, Palestinian residents complained that the barrier prevents them from accessing areas they use for grazing and farming.
Former Chief Justice Aharon Barak said that the concrete barrier is “a disproportionate security measure,” since other solutions could have been used to secure the area with lesser impact on the Palestinian population in the area.
The IDF says that the barrier is important for protecting the nearby settlements and Israeli cars traveling on the road. But Colonel (reserves) Shaul Arieli, who wrote a report for the Council for Peace and Security, said this claim was unfounded and that the barrier is a security hazard, if anything.
The council is a voluntary body of retired senior officers, diplomats and government officials offering advice on ways to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
According to Arieli, the height of the barrier not only leaves traveling cars exposed to shooting attacks, but also allows gunmen to hide behind it and make their capture more difficult. “They are not providing security but create an impossible situation,” Arieli said.
“The true reason for the construction of the barrier is to bar the Palestinians’ access to their lands and allow the gradual takeover by settlers. The barrier prevents the passage of pedestrians, the ill, women, children and cattle. But a terrorist can jump over it easily,” Arieli said also.
Brigadier General (reserves) Yehuda Golan told the High Court he is “convinced that this is not an act in the name of security. Had I feared that Israeli citizens would be harmed as a result, I wouldn’t be here,” he told the court.
“This is a misleading and irresponsible use in the name of security for other purposes,” he said.
The High Court allowed the IDF to create an alternative obstacle that would, however, allow the passage of pedestrians and cattle . The court instructed the state to pay the legal expenses related to the trial totaling NIS 75,000.