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Border Control / Better late than never?

Akiva Eldar | Ha’aretz

16 September 2009

A little over four years ago, when Kadima’s Ze’ev Boim was deputy defense minister in the Likud government, he launched a huge attack on Col. (res.) Shaul Arieli and his colleagues from the council for peace and security.

These people, he said, make the saying “Those who destroy you will come from within,” come true, he said.

Boim’s ire stemmed from the fact that the members of the council had dared to propose to the High Court of Justice an alternative route for one of the sections of the separation fence. Their proposal was more economical and less invasive; it could be completed faster and was less harmful from a political point of view.

However, contrary to the route that had been planned in Boim’s bureau, this one was not drawn up with the settlers’ wishes in mind.

Last week, the justices of the high court, headed by the court president Dorit Beinisch, adopted the alternative proposed by these “destroyers” for the fence’s route in the area of Tul Karm and Qalqilyah. The fence in this area was completed as far back as 2003. The court’s ruling noted that events have shown that “from the start the fence was put up in a way that seriously harmed the rights of the local residents and their access to their agricultural lands … This was caused by including large stretches of agricultural land in the seam area and was aimed at making it possible for the Tsofin North plan to go into effect as well as the extension of the settlement of Tsofin in the future.”

The ruling ordered that 5,400 dunams trapped on the western (Israeli) side of the fence be returned to Palestinian villagers.

The key words, “from the start,” appear in the ruling also with reference to the opinion submitted by the council. Beinisch notes that the council presented an alternative that was “significantly” different from the existing route and that after the state changed its position, “the route it is proposing today came closer to the route that was proposed from the start by the council.”

Justices Edmond Levy and Ayala Procaccia also agreed with Beinisch that the route proposed by Arieli and his colleagues provides a solution to the security needs of the state’s citizens.

The court ruled that the state must pay NIS 20,000 in court costs from the villagers who had petitioned it. That is a paltry sum when compared with the cost to the taxpayer of what is hidden behind the words “from the start.”

Had the senior political echelons opened their minds to Arieli instead of obeying the settlers, the state coffers could saved tens of millions of shekels on this section of the fence alone.

The mathematics are simple: Putting up a fence along 6.6 kilometers according to the Defense Ministry’s route – NIS 80 million; dismantling the fence – NIS 8 million. When you add to that the hours of work spent by the state prosecution and the costs of rehabilitating the areas that were damaged by putting up the original fence and dismantling it, you get close to NIS 100 million.

Apropos to “those who destroy” – every weekend the media report “violent incidents” between demonstrators against the fence and the army near the village of Bil’in. For some reason, no one bothers to mention the fact that the High Court of Justice ruled that those who planned the fence expropriated the villagers’ lands in order to accommodate the expansion of neighboring Modi’in Ilit.

They also do not mention that it stated that the present route suffers from topographical inferiority and that this endangers the security forces.

It is now two years since the high court ruled that this section of the fence must be dismantled and built along a less invasive and more secure route.

The Israel Defense Forces spokesman responded on July 22 that, “The IDF is ready for the change of route in the fence in that area, according to the High Court of Justice’s ruling, and is now awaiting the criticisms that are expected to be presented on behalf of the villagers.”

The criticisms were submitted a month earlier.

Bully pulpits

Three months ago, Defense Minister Ehud Barak took time from his busy day to meet with South Korean preacher Dr. Jaerock Lee. Last week, foreign correspondents received an invitation to cover a festival that the evangelical guru had organized in Jerusalem with the participation of Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

They were assured that Lee would conclude the rally for the 3,000 pilgrims from 36 countries who came to receive his blessing with a special prayer for the health and blessing of Israel and its people.

Lee, who claims he is immortal, free of sin and able to perform miracles to heal the sick, did not disappoint and promised that the prayers he recited in the Holy City would keep it free of swine flu.

The organizers pointed out that the decision by Lee to hold the festival in Jerusalem was an expression of solidarity with and faith in the state of Israel and its leaders.

A few days before the thousands of believers of the South Korean preacher arrived in Jerusalem, the central committee of the World Council of Churches in Geneva signed a resolution stating that the “some 200 settlements with more than 450,000 settlers in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem … make the peace efforts by the international community more vulnerable and virtually impossible.”

The organization, which represents 349 churches with 560 million believers, pointed out that while the whole world supports Israel’s right to live in security, its settlement and annexation policies give rise to feelings of hostility. It therefore called on all the churches that it represents to encourage non-violent opposition to the expropriation of lands, destruction of houses and banishment of Palestinians from their homes.

Moreover, the council reiterated its instruction to boycott goods and services that originate from the settlements and the believers were called on to refrain from investing in businesses that are connected with Israel’s settlement activity.