Fencing in the High Court of Justice

The recent rulings of the High Court of Justice in petitions against the route of the separation fence, as in the areas of Tzofin and Bil'in, show the justices are fed up with saluting every claim of "security needs."

What have the Jewish settlers in the West Bank and their friends in the establishment been doing to get a settlement inside the fence after their security ammunition has run out? They are transferring it from the jurisdiction of the regional council, annexing it to the big city and asking to fit the route to the new municipal boundaries. After all, it is inconceivable that a fence will separate Jews from other Jews in the same city.

Why didn't anyone think of this sooner? So what if in practical terms this means the annexation of another 16,000 dunams of land in the West Bank and the imprisoning of 150 Palestinian families, with an average of 15 souls per family, inside an enclave?

For more than two years now a prime minister and two defense ministers have been evading making decisions on the fence route around Ma'aleh Adumim. The High Court of Justice gave them an extension and another extension and then another to reply to the petitions from Palestinian inhabitants and human rights organizations against matching the route to the decision to bring the Jewish settlement of Kedar inside the fence. Meanwhile, this huge gap is inviting one terrorist after another to come on through.

In one of the High Court's first deliberations Colonel (res.) Danny Tirza, who headed the planning team on the fence at the Defense Ministry, admitted that the modest route the Council for Peace and Security had presented to the court answers the security needs of Israel's inhabitants. Nevertheless, to rescue his own route, Tirza, a settler from Kfar Adumim, articulated a creative idea: preparing a master plan to unite the jurisdictions of Ma'aleh Adumim and Kedar.

Relying on a master plan to establish municipal boundaries in effect circumvents the planning procedure that necessitates depositing a plan and giving an opportunity to injured parties to oppose the plan (never mind that this is published only in the Hebrew press).

The next step was establishing an inquiry committee at the Interior Ministry to look into the request from Kedar, which belongs to the Etzion Bloc regional council, to be put under the jurisdiction of the Ma'aleh Adumim municipality.

Who knows, maybe the members of the committee won't notice the dozens of Jewish settlements that are further away from their regional council are scattered throughout the West Bank? Not to mention the distance between innumerable Palestinian villages that have been imprisoned outside the fence and beyond easy reach of their provincial towns and essential services.

Architect Efrat Cohen Bar and her colleagues in the non-profit Bimkom-Planners for Planning Rights suspected they were facing an attempt to establish facts on the ground before the High Court decides on the fence route of the barrier in the guise of municipal and planning considerations. Surprisingly, they found a helpful witness in the person of the director general of the Ma'aleh Adumim municipality, Eli Harnir. Bimkom, in its objection to the plan, quotes Harnir as saying:

"If Kedar becomes a neighborhood of Ma'aleh Adumim, with all that this implies, it will have to be together with Ma'aleh Adumim inside the area of the fence," said the director general, "but it is necessary to establish this and to present it to the High Court of Justice."

According the minutes of the committee, Harnir's boss, the mayor of Ma'aleh Adumim, Benny Kasriel, also hinted this was a maneuver to bypass the High Court.

"We want to build as far as you (Kedar)," he said in the committee, "so that if, heavens forfend, a time of disengagement comes along and things like that, then building contiguity is what will be the determining factor, not 240 families (the inhabitants of Kedar - A.E.).

It will be interesting to see what the president of the Supreme Court, Justice Dorit Beinisch, and her fellow justices, who are deliberating on the Ma'aleh Adumim fence, will have to say about this trick.

Incidentally, Shaul Arieli, one of the writers of the Geneva Accords, relates that until the Palestinian partners to those accords agreed to relinquish Ma'aleh Adumim in return for suitable compensation, Ariel Sharon had determinedly fended off Kasriel's pressures to bring his city inside the fence.