Palestinian farmer
A Palestinian farmer harvests cucumbers in a field near the West Bank city of Jenin on May 4, 2010. Photo by AP
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The state has confirmed that, acting without a court order, the army has barred Palestinian villagers from freely accessing their farmland for two years. The admission was made in the state's response to a High Court petition filed last year by Beit Furik residents.

The plots farmed by the residents of Beit Furik, which is southeast of Nablus, border several unauthorized outposts that were built near the Itamar settlement over the past decade and are known as the Gidonim outposts. In 2010, the Israel Defense Forces began preventing villagers from accessing their fields freely. As a result they must coordinate their farmwork with the army, in accordance with deployment levels.

Representing the state, attorney Shosh Shmueli wrote: "This was done without benefit of a court order, in an improper manner." GOC Central Command Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon signed a military order in March, barring entry to Beit Furik's agricultural lands without coordination with the IDF for a period of two years.

In its response to the petition, the state ascribed the need for the order to the "complex security situation in the Gidonim area," adding that, within two years, security arrangements should be in place for Itamar that will permit the reduction of the area located within the closed-off portion of land.

The IDF Spokesman's Office issued the following response: "In the past decade, 15 Israelis have been murdered in the Israeli communities and outposts near the Palestinian village of Beit Furik, including women and children, and many more have been injured. Additional attacks were prevented by security forces.

"In order to protect the area's Israeli residents," it continued, "a decision was made according to which Palestinians seeking to approach the Israeli communities and outposts in the area must coordinate this in advance. As the state's response to the petition indicated, a similar decision was taken in the past that had the force of authority but was not backed by a formal order ... The term 'improper' referred mainly to procedural aspects of the issuing of the order."