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From the field

High Court in precedent-making decision: Dismantle section of the Separation Barrier

On 15 September 2005, an expanded panel of nine justices ordered the state "to reconsider, within a reasonable time, alternatives to the route of the Barrier by Alfe Menashe." The decision followed the High Court of Justice's finding that the existing route of Barrier disproportionately violates the human rights of Palestinians living in an enclave of five villages situated west of the Barrier. The court directed the state to consider an alternative according to which the Barrier would enclose only the Alfe Menashe settlement and the road linking it with Israel, and not the Palestinian villages.

This is the first time that the court has voided a section of the Barrier that has already been built. The court left open the question of what happens if the state concludes that "the existing route is the only route that will provide the minimum degree of security needed." The ruling states that "the time has not yet arrived to cope with this difficulty."

In its decision, the court ruled that the military commander in the West Bank must protect the lives and ensure the safety of the settlers, and that the Separation Barrier is a lawful means to achieve this goal. This obligation exists regardless of whether the settlements are legal - an issue which the High Court avoided in its ruling. This conclusion directly contradicts the conclusion reached by the International Court of Justice, which held that the settlements breach international law and therefore Israel is forbidden to take measures that perpetuate or annex them. As a result, the ICJ held that the sections of the Barrier intended to achieve these ends are illegal.