Israeli Supreme Court rules against separation wall in Battir

12:00 Jan 4 2015 Battir

Israeli Supreme Court rules against separation wall in Battir
The agricultural terraces of Battir. Photo by Michal Fattal

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Israeli Supreme Court has ruled against the construction of a section of the separation wall in the West Bank village of Battir west of Bethlehem, a local official said Sunday.

Akram Badir, head of Battir's local council, told Ma'an that the Supreme Court "signed a final decision rejecting a request by the Israeli army to build a section of the annexation wall in the village."

"To make any changes to the decision, the Israeli occupation will have to start new procedures from scratch that will take several years," Badir said.

"This triumph in Battir is a victory for Palestine as whole," he added.

He said Battir locals had worked tirelessly to protect its landscape, which was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage in Danger site in 2014.

Battir is famous for its ancient terraces and Roman-era irrigation system which is still used by villagers for their crops.

But the village came under threat from Israeli plans to erect part of the West Bank separation barrier there, which experts say would have irretrievably damaged the water system.

Palestine won membership in UNESCO in October 2011 and quickly moved to submit a number of sites for recognition, including an emergency application for Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity which was approved in June the following year, despite Israeli objections.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion calling on Israel to stop building the wall and dismantle or re-route sections that had been constructed.

Israel says the wall is necessary for its security but Palestinians say it is a land grab, noting that it is not built on the Green Line and in places runs deep inside the West Bank.

AFP contributed to this report.

Palestinians, settlers, greens declare victory in court ruling on separation barrier

After 3-year battle, judges freeze state's plan to build fence at UNESCO-protected environmental site near village of Battir, after army, government decide it wasn't such a security priority after all.

By Nir Hasson for Haaretz

The High Court on Sunday froze proceedings over the state's plan to build the separation barrier past the West Bank village Battir, whose ancient agricultural terraces, which villagers are still farming, were recognized last year by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Villagers and Israeli environmentalists claimed victory in their three-year battle against the plan.

"This triumph is a victory for Palestine as a whole," Akram Badir, head of the local council in Battir, south of Jerusalem, told the Palestinian news agency Ma'an.

"This is a great achievement for everyone who cares about preserving our environmental and cultural heritage," said Gideon Bromberg, head of Friends of the Earth – Israel. "The High Court today put an end to the web of deception and foolishness the defense ministry has engaged in over the construction of the separation barrier in this unique part of the world."

Along the way, the villagers and Friends of the Earth-Israel were joined in their petition by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, which took the highly unusual step of coming out strongly against the Defense Ministry's plan. Others joining the extraordinarly broad coalition of opponents included Gush Etzion settlers and the Gush Etzion Field School.

A turning point in the controversy came three months ago with an interview given by Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon to Makor Rishon newspaper, in which he said the ministry had no plans to go forward with construction at any time soon. "It's not a priority at all," Ya'alon said. "I could use the excuse that we don't have the money, but the point is that I don't see a need at the moment for a fence around Gush Etzion."

Right after the interview was published, the petitioners submitted it to the court, saying it contradicted the state's long-held contention that contruction of the barrier at Battir was a matter of utmost urgency because it was the last unfenced stretch between the West Bank and Israel. Between Ya'alon's interview and the state's announcement that there was no money for the construction because of the government's collapse and consequent failure to pass the 2015 budget, the court decided on Sunday to vacate the petitions. Thus, it effectively forbade the government from constructing the barrier at Battir before submitting a new building plan, which would be subject to further court challenges.

Court President Asher Grunis ruled if the government decided later to go ahead with the construction, it would have to inform the petitioners ahead of time to allow them time to prepare their legal responses. Attorney Michael Sfard, who represented Friends of the Earth – Israel, said the court's ruling suspends for a long time the possibility of extending the separation barrier past Battir.

"The ruling does not say it's forbidden to build, but the judges, after three years of deliberations, basically say that on the day [the state] decides to build, everything will start from the beginning," Sfard said.

Grunis wrote, "Inasmuch as the [state] contended throughout the various stages of proceedings that there was a vital security need to contruct the barrier along a route next to Battir, at this point the defense minister position is that building the separation barrier along this route (while stressing its security importance) is not of a priority that would justify building it at this time."

Said Bromberg, "It's just too bad that the army chose to waste everyone's time for two whole years with its claim about an immediate security need, when it had no intention, according to its recent declarations, to build the fence in the area."
Credibility: UP DOWN 0
Leave a Comment
Security Code:
15 + 8 =

Additional Reports

Including Six Children, Israeli Soldiers Abduct Fourteen Palestinians From Hebron

06:00 Sep 19, 2022

Hebron (الخليل ), Sa’ir (سعير), Shuyukh al-Arrub (شيوخ العروب, Shiokh), Beit Ummar (بيت اُمّر), Al-Arroub (مخيّم العروبة), Zweidin and roadblock near Baqa ash-Sharqiyya (باقه الشرقية), Tulkarem, 0.2 Kms

Israeli settlers raze Palestinian-owned lands in Battir

06:00 Dec 20, 2018

Battir, 0.23 Kms