Peretz Orders Fence Route Reviewed With Palestinians in Mind

Defense Minister Amir Peretz has decided to review the route of the separation fence to make sure that it allows for the everyday needs of the Palestinian population.

Peretz also wants to discuss the fence route in Jerusalem, with the goal of reducing the number of Palestinians left on the western side - currently some 200,000 - by as much as possible.

Peretz directed the ministry's director general, Kobi Toren, and its legal counsel, Zvia Gross, to determine as soon as possible whether there are other cases like that of the fence east of the settlement of Tzofin, in which the route annexed lands for the purpose of expanding the settlement. Peretz hopes to spare the Defense Ministry further embarrassment following last Thursday's High Court of Justice ruling in favor of a petition against the fence route near Tzofin.

The High Court has additional petitions pending from Palestinians and human rights organizations that claim that under cover of security considerations, the fence route is being used to pillage Palestinian lands for settlement expansion.

Peretz said at a closed meeting that he does not intend to brush off the High Court's ruling that the Defense Ministry concealed the truth about the considerations behind the fence route in the Tzofin area. The justices ordered the state to dismantle the present fence within six months of completing an alternative 1,350-meter segment, and to pay the petitioners' court costs of NIS 50,000.

"The petition before us indicates an unacceptable occurrence, in which the information furnished to the court did not reflect the complete considerations facing the decision-makers," wrote Supreme Court President Aharon Barak.

Probes by organizations such as HaMoked Center for the Defense of the Individual, B'Tselem, the Council for Peace and Security and Bimkom - Planners for Planning Rights revealed more than 10 other cases in which the route accommodates settlement expansion, even at the expense of the fence's efficacy. These include the route east of the Neveh Ya'akov neighborhood in northeast Jerusalem, which matches the boundary of the master plan for the settlement of Geva; the route north of Gush Etzion, designed to enable the expansion of Kedar; and the route around Modi'in Ilit, which matches the master plan for expanding that settlement, in part at the expense of lands belonging to the village of Bil'in.