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From the field

6 Sept. 2007: High Court accepts petition against Separation Barrier built on Bi'lin village land

The route of the Separation Barrier in the area of Bi'lin left some fifty percent of the village's land on the "Israeli" side. The land includes cultivated fields and reserves for future building in the community. In recent years, residents of Bi'lin have waged a tenacious and non-violent battle against the theft of their land, while the security forces have regularly used unreasonable force in an attempt to end their struggle.

In their decision, the justices accepted the arguments, raised by B'Tselem and Bimkom in their 2005 report, that the state selected the route, which was inferior on topological grounds, to expand the Modi'in Illit settlement on lands belonging to Bi'lin's residents. As part of the expansion plans, developers began construction of Matityahu East on the land even though the planning authorities had not approved the construction.

In its decision, the justices unanimously held that the route endangers the forces patrolling the barrier in this area. Court President Beinisch held that, "In light of the provisional nature of the fence as a security measure, it is improper to plan the route according to considerations related to invalid building plans or to plans that are not expected to be implemented in the near future." She added: "The construction in Matityahu East to date is entirely on the western side of the neighborhood, while on the eastern side, no development or construction work has been done , and implementation of Stage 2 of the neighborhood is not at all certain'… In this situation, we do not accept the argument that defense of the eastern side of Matityahu East is a vital security purpose."

The justices ordered the state to reconsider the barrier route and to consider running it along a route that is not based on protecting the additional neighborhood that the developers planned to build, and to run it along a route that inflicts less harm on the residents of Bi'lin. The justices ordered the state to comply within a reasonable time. Until the barrier is dismantled and rebuilt along a different route, the justices ordered that the Bi'lin gate in the existing barrier remain open every day from six in the morning to eight o'clock at night.

The High Court rejected the petition filed by Peace Now to tear down the construction in Matityahu East. The justices rejected the petition, in part, because of what they cited as the excessive delay in filing the petition.