Defence Minister to review route of the wall

The Labour MP Peretz wants to ascertain there are no instances in which the route of the separation wall was decided for economic rather than security reasons. The Supreme Court found this happened in one case and ordered the dismantlement of five km of the barrier.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The Israeli Defence Minister, Amir Peretz, a Labour member, has decided to review the route of the separation wall with Cisjordan. He wants to ensure the wall being constructed by Israel will not create obstacles for the needs of the Palestinian people. This was reported by the Israeli daily Haaretz, which said the review will also consider the route with the goal of reducing the number of Palestinians left on the western Israeli side – currently some 200,000 – ­as much as possible.

The decision of Peretz, who did not comment about the newspaper article, comes a few days after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that five km of the wall should be knocked down or moved because its current route makes the life of two Palestinian villages, Azun and Nebi Elias, difficult. Further, the court found the wall was designed not for security purposes – the stated reason – but to include the future industrial zone of the nearby Israeli settlement of Tzofin, for which no construction permit has come through as yet.

The article said Peretz had asked the director of his ministry, Kobi Teren, and his legal adviser, Zvia Gross, to ascertain, as soon as possible, whether similar situations existed at other points along the route of the wall.

The minister would like to avoid a repetition of criticisms by the Court leveled at his ministry. In the ruling on the Tzofin case, it was recalled that a first case filed against the route in 2002 had been turned down because the authorities held it had been determined for security reasons. A new petition was presented in 2005, after the claimants, the mayors of the Palestinian villages concerned, and the Centre for the Defence of the Individual, presented proof of economic motivations behind the delineation of the wall's route. The Court then ordered the government to pay 50,000 shekels (nearly 9,000 euros) to cover the petitioners' court expenses.

After the ruling, Israeli human rights group B'Tselem and Bimkom, another group, "uncovered 11 other cases in which the fence route was decided upon in order to expand settlements."

In more news about Israeli settlements, Peretz yesterday discussed the evacuation of illegal colonies from Cisjordan in a meeting with representatives of the Yesha Council (Council of Jewish communities of Judea, Samaria and Gaza – the most important representative body covering the settlements' interests). During the talks, the minister, according to Army Radio, said there will be no negotiations with settlements inhabited by "negative elements who make a mockery of the state and do harm to the security forces and to Palestinians".