Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Important addendum to the preceding

From the Christian Science Monitor for July 1:
A landmark ruling by Israel's Supreme Court ordering the rerouting of parts of the West Bank separation barrier is evoking anger on the Israeli right but has prompted congratulations between Palestinians and Israeli community activists who joined to score the legal victory. ...

The ruling negates the army's route for 18 miles of the fence northwest of Jerusalem and is expected to serve as a precedent for moving other parts of the 425-mile barrier route - one-fourth of which has been completed - closer to the old Green Line border that separated Israel from the West Bank until 1967. It would thereby reduce, but not halt, the barrier's penetration into the occupied territory. ...

The court upheld Israel's right to build the barrier and said it is doing so for security, not political, reasons. But it said that military planners of the barrier, which snakes as much as 15 miles beyond the Green Line at its deepest penetration, had failed to meet a legal requirement to "balance between security needs and the rights and interests of the local population."

"Alongside the important security considerations, it must be considered that the fence harms the lives of 35,000 local residents," an official summary of the decision says. The court struck down six army land-confiscation orders in Beit Surik and other villages, and upheld one.
The International Court of Justice in The Hague is expected to issue an advisory opinion on the legality of the barrier in about 10 days. It's hard - at least for me - to say what effect, if any, this will have on the ICJ's decision, since the Israeli Supreme Court's ruling affects the positioning of the barrier, but not the fact of it, even as it penetrates into occupied territory. So it provides some ammo for both sides.

The issue of the territories is of course the central one: As I've noted before, if Israel chose to build this wall inside the Green Line, it's doubtful anyone would have challenged its right to do so and even less likely anyone would have succeeded at such a challenge. But by encompassing major Israeli West Bank settlements and in some cases actually separating Palestinian growers from their fields, it comes across - despite the Supreme Court's finding - less as a security boundary than as a naked land grab, an attempt to create "facts on the ground" that can't be undone. While those "facts" are still being created, it's now clear that their extent is still open to question.

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