IDF Breaks Pledge to Remove West Bank Fences Severing Palestinian Land

IDF completed its preparatory work and passed project on to Defense Ministry for approval of funding, but request has not gone through; IDF never informed High Court that it would be unable to meet timetable.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

The Israel Defense Forces broke a pledge to the High Court of Justice, and has not removed two illegal fences around settlements, which prevent Palestinian farmers from reaching their land.

The IDF had pledged to remove the fences by the end of 2012, but work has not yet begun and no forecast has been made as to when it might start.

The IDF told the court it would take down the fences in response to two petitions filed in 2009 by Palestinians from the villages of Jaba and Silwad, who were represented by the human rights group Yesh Din and attorneys Michael Sfard and Shlomi Zacharia.

According to the petitions, unauthorized fences had been built around the settlements of Adam and Ofra in the northern West Bank, which closed off access by Palestinian farmers to their land.

The state did not extensively dispute the petitioners' claim. However, the state requested that new fences be built before the existing ones were taken down. In May 2011, the state presented the following statement to the court: "As part of the background work to map the illegal fencing in the Binyamin area and after examining their legality, a draft has been prepared of a comprehensive operational demand with regard to the security of the settlements, intended to regulate the establishment of alternative security components in the hope of limiting damage to private property as much as possible."

Regarding a timetable, the state said that according to its assessment, "the establishment of the alternative security components would be carried out at the end of 2012, subject to completion of preparatory work, authorization and budget." The state told the court it had placed the work on the fences on high priority in a comprehensive plan prepared by the IDF's Judea and Samaria Division.

Taking the declarations at face value, the High Court canceled the petitions. In the matter of Silwad, Justice Elyakim Rubinstein wrote in September 2011: "In light of the progress in the work and its expected duration until the end of 2012, the solution proposed...seems sufficient."

In October 2011, Justice Eliezer Rivlin rejected the petition of residents of Jaba, noting that there was "no reason for the court to intervene," but that "it would be proper to consider the possibility of speeding up the completion of the work in a shorter period than has been proposed. I have learned that as of now the work has not begun due to the process of issuing a tender. These administrative processes can certainly be expedited."

Haaretz has learned that the IDF completed its preparatory work and passed the project on to the Defense Ministry for approval of funding, and the request has not gone through. However, the IDF never informed the High Court that it would be unable to meet the timetable.

Palestinian farmers trying to enter the West Bank settlement of Ofra to work their lands, August 1, 2011.Credit: Emil Salman

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