Head of Fence Planning to Resign After Human Rights Group Complaint

The head of the administration planning the separation fence, Colonel (res.) Dan Tirza, will be leaving his post in the coming weeks, a senior security source said.

A member of the human rights organization Yesh Din had filed a complaint with the police in Yiftach, in central Israel, accusing Tirza of submitting a false statement to the High Court of Justice. As a result, the complaint states, the court rendered a mistaken ruling and hundreds of farmers lost access to their lands and livelihood as a result.

Tirza continues to represent the state in the High Court on petitions involving the separation fence.

In a letter to Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, Yesh Din legal advisor Michael Sfard asked that Tirza be immediately suspended until the matter was cleared up. Sfard wrote that only an immediate suspension would restore public faith in representatives of the defense establishment appearing in court, and prevent similar occurences in the future.

Three months ago, in granting the petition of residents of the villages of Azun and Nebi Elias against the separation fence crossing their land, then-High Court president Aharon Barak wrote that "the petition highlights an event that should not be accepted, by which information provided to the court did not reflect the entirety of the decision-makers' considerations. As a result, a petition was rejected that even the respondent agrees today should have been accepted."

Sfard argued the affair raised serious suspicions that senior officials in the defense establishment had breached the trust of the court when they signed false depositions and thus obstructed justice.

After the ruling was handed down, it was reported that the defense minister ordered the matter examined and the attorney general demanded an investigation into how the High Court of Justice was led astray by representatives of the state. The Justice Ministry said last week that the findings had not yet reached the attorney general.

At a meeting at the end of the week following another High Court ruling involving law enforcement in the territories and questions by Mazuz, Peretz instructed the defense establishment comptroller to closely scrutinize the activities to protect West Bank farmers during the upcoming olive harvest.

Peretz said he was surprised that no one had been tried for damaging Palestinian agriculture and pledged to increase significantly the forces in the area of friction between settlers and grove owners.

He also demanded that the police beef up its forces and indict suspects.

According to police records, more than 2,000 olive trees were destroyed last year.