Ariel Sharon should be reminded of his statements: Three days ago, he warned the heads of the defense establishment not to criticize the High Court of Justice ruling and he promised to abide by it. As is appropriate for a prime minister in a properly functioning country, Sharon urged his subordinates to reach the necessary conclusions from the court's decision on the security fence, and to complete its planning and construction along the permissible route. He even told them to take into consideration the needs of the Palestinian villagers.
Sharon was so generous in his approach that he told the senior officials in his office, "I don't know how many among them [Palestinians] are farmers, but it is a very hard thing to take lands from these people, who invested their lives in these fields." Cut this bit out and save it!
As opposed to the impression created in the media, and among the right-wing ministers and MKs, the High Court of Justice decision last Wednesday grants the government a great deal of leeway for constructing the fence along a route that it sees fit. The justices accepted the position of the state as being self-evident, that the fence was initiated purely as a result of security needs, and that its route was not influenced by political considerations. In addition, the High Court gave utmost weight to the professional considerations of the state's security experts over those of senior retired officers, and over those of the justices themselves.
The reason for the High Court's involvement in the fence issue was diluted to a single element in the decision-making process: excessive arrogance among the planners and the officers, which led them to blatantly ignore the rights of the Palestinian residents. One may conclude that the minute the defense establishment restrains a bit the indifference of those in its ranks dealing with the setting up of the fence, the minute it proves that it shows some consideration to the complaints of the victimized Palestinian population, the High Court will lift the gates and allow it to complete the fence on the basis of its fundamental guiding principles.
In order to prevent a mere cosmetic correction to the fence's route, it is important to emphasize an afterthought statement by the High Court of Justice, and attach to it the prime minister's declaration regarding the government's commitment to accept the decision of the judicial authority. Justices Aharon Barak, Eliahu Mazza and Mishael Cheshin included the following statement in their decision: "The fence should not be built for political reasons. It cannot come about by motives for annexation. Its purpose cannot be the setting of a political border." The justices then ruled that in the cases brought before them there was no political motive behind the construction of the fence.
This will not necessarily be the case when petitions are filed against the building of the fence in the area of Ariel. The security justification for the route of the fence in this part is less convincing than the section between Mevasseret Zion and Beit Surik. The political motivation in building the obstacle deep to the east of Kfar Sava is much more obvious than the strip of land along Route 443, against which petitions were filed and on which the High Court ruled last week. If and when the court deliberates the circuit of the fence that is meant to annex the settlements in central Samaria, it will be bound by its statement that the fence is not a legitimate means for establishing a political border. Then, there will be great significance in the prime minister's commitment to abide by the High Court's ruling.
Before the government becomes mired in contradictions to its commitment to the High Court's decision, or before it forces the court into a corner from which it will be difficult to pull back from its statement that a fence should not be built for the purpose of annexation, it is advisable that it reconsider its decision to push the fence deep into Palestinian territory in the Ariel area.
At the Defense Ministry, they argue that 50,000 Israelis live in the area in question, and only one Palestinian family, but this is their way of absolving the act. However, even here they admit that the fence, along its planned circuit, will include large agricultural plots owned by Palestinians.
The government will have a hard task in persuading the public that the motive behind the building of the fence in this area is solely security based, and the prime minister will find it difficult to shake off his expression of understanding to the suffering of the peasants who must be cut off from their lands. It is worthwhile to foresee the future and return the route of the fence close to the Green Line.
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