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Hope for Beit Jala residents after Israel court rules on wall
Published Tuesday 04/02/2014 (updated) 20/02/2014 09:46
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A general view of part of the Cremisan valley in Beit Jala.
(MaanImages/Charlie Hoyle)

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel's Supreme Court on Monday ordered the Israeli state to justify the route of the separation wall in Beit Jala's Cremisan valley in an apparent indication that the proposed land seizure could be canceled.

Fifty-eight landowners, together with the Salesian convent and monastery, have battled for eight years against a 2006 Israeli military order to build the separation wall around Beit Jala and the illegal Gilo settlement.

On Monday, Israel's Supreme Court issued a preliminary order giving the Israeli state until April 10 to justify why it could not alter the proposed route of the wall, which as planned would split the Salesian community, annex the Cremisan valley to Israel and seize land from local Beit Jala residents.

The court ordered that all construction on the separation wall be halted until the Israeli state responds to the request.

"If you look at where we started from when we entered the court with little hope for anything and now we have the situation where they have to justify the wall, it looks very promising," Anica Heinlein, an advocacy officer for the Society of St. Yves, which represents the nuns, told Ma'an.

The Israeli Supreme Court set a new hearing for July 30 to discuss the answer of the Israeli state and responses to it by Beit Jala residents.

St. Yves lawyer Zvi Avni said they are still some way from a final decision but the ruling shows that the Supreme Court found the case "convincing" and therefore asked the state to present its reasons for not abolishing the confiscation orders and not considering a route which would be less harmful to Beit Jala residents.

"The burden of proof is on them (the Israeli state) to say why they want to put this wall here and not on the other side (of the valley)," Avni told Ma'an.

(MaanImages/Eva Pilipp)

International interest and the presence of church representatives and foreign diplomats at previous hearings has put pressure on the court, Avni said, which could explain the delay until July in issuing a ruling.

But also key to the potential success of the case was the testimony of former Israeli generals from the Council of Peace and Security who argued that the suggested route of the wall was unnecessary in security terms, Avni said.

The generals dismissed the Israeli state attorney's argument that the route of the wall was vital to prevent "terrorist" attacks on Gilo, such as shooting incidents in the past, and argued that an alternative route for the wall below the settlement would cause much less harm to Beit Jala residents while serving Israeli security needs.

They argued that the proposed route was about land confiscation and would in fact increase insecurity in the area due to the presence of Israeli soldiers at security gates, Avni said.

"We have always said that the real intention is to take over these lands," Avni told Ma'an. "If its so dangerous as you claim then why do you want to expand this neighborhood (Gilo)?"

Avni says it is premature to say how important the court decision is but that he doesn't expect any "new surprises" from Israel.

"We still have to see but there is a better chance that the community will stay with its lands," the lawyer said.

If the route of the wall goes ahead it will divide the Salesian religious community on either side and turn a place which once provided refuge to local residents into an "army camp," the lawyer says.

The wall would also annex the very last green spaces available to the local community and take away land farmed for generations in steep green plateaus.

The latest ruling, while not final, is certainly a good sign the Israeli court will rule in favor of local residents and the Salesian community to change the route of the wall, Anica Heinlein says.

"We went there with little hope, there was never no hope, and now it looks like we could win."
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1 ) Tibi / Tubas
04/02/2014 20:29
The Israeli East Jerusalem region known as Gilo is full of bullet holes, so
It's probably quite easy to justify the wall, and particulary with so
many Palestinians talking about starting an Third Intifada !!!

2 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
04/02/2014 22:54
If we're lucky there will be a peace treaty and permanent borders and then the fence can come down (and the small portion of it that is wall). And, of course, Arabs get a hearing in the Israeli supreme court - something that the blacks never got in south africa before 1992. That entire "apartheid" lie is just that... a big propaganda lie.

3 ) wayne / NZ
05/02/2014 00:36
Gosh that's good news, just like the Berlin wall, its only a wall built to imprison only some of the people, but .... it can still be pulled down. roll on the icc, with some good wins to come Never give up, its not over till its over .....

4 ) Colin Wright / USA
05/02/2014 00:38
Rather than imagining Israel is going to be influenced by the rule of the law, it may be more realistic to hope that Israel will realize the P.R. costs of this action are spinning out of control; the Pope may have let it be known he will not be amused if Israel goes forward with this. Of course, the retreat will take the FORM of a Supreme Court decision that Israel chooses to respect -- but that won't be what happened.

5 ) Colin Wright / USA
05/02/2014 00:40
'... the ruling shows that the Supreme Court found the case "convincing" and therefore asked the state to present its reasons for not abolishing the confiscation orders and not considering a route which would be less harmful to Beit Jala residents...' In the context of reality, these sort of explanations are surreal. The very purpose of the walls is to harm the residents.

6 ) Johnny benson / USA
05/02/2014 02:09
Very interesting .....indeed....looks like a fair argument...we will see...but these activists sure need a good kick in the pants....not the Arabs...the others...

7 ) Hanna / Palestine
05/02/2014 08:48
As long as we continue to challenge Israeli policies in Israeli courts consider it a hopeless case. The PA should forego US Government bribes and apply for Palestine's membership to the International Criminal Court!

8 ) Amazing the amount of justice / ARABS GET
05/02/2014 09:09
in this APARHEID ISRAEL!

9 ) spb / usa
05/02/2014 14:05
ok, move it 2 yards forward

10 ) Colin Wright / USA
05/02/2014 21:46
To Johnny Benson #6: 'Very interesting .....indeed....looks like a fair argument...we will see...but these activists sure need a good kick in the pants....not the Arabs...the others...' As usual, I can only agree that the measures you propose would be excellent. Just make sure your 'kick in the pants' is filmed.

11 ) Colin Wright / USA
05/02/2014 21:48
To Brian Cohen #2: 'If we're lucky there will be a peace treaty and permanent borders' Happily, Brain, there are permanent borders -- and I'm confident all would be happy to sign a peace treaty with Israel if only she would withdraw to them. So I see only one problem here.

12 ) ian / australia
06/02/2014 03:29
#2 "If we're lucky there will be a peace treaty and permanent borders and then the fence can come down..." Very reasonable sounding, Brian, but the "permanent borders" you have in mind, though never admit to, do not add up to a viable Palestinian state. The WB minus East Jerusalem, inc. the Aqsa, ALL the settlements, inc. Beit El and Nofei Prat, the Jordan Valley, and severed through the middle by an expanded Ma'ale Adumim (plus blockaded Gaza) do NOT add up to a new beginning for

13 ) ian / australia
06/02/2014 03:34
(contd.) the Palestinians. More an abject defeat (screwed by superior cunning) and a state founded in despair, demoralised from the start with no hope of succeeding. Which is, as your posts reveal, the (unspoken) Israeli vision of the 2SS.

14 ) Jason / UK
06/02/2014 21:17
Not there yet, but the key word in all of this is indeed, 'HOPE.' I am grateful for this latest development - for answered prayer and for hard work on the part of many people. I continue to HOPE for justice and righteousness to prevail, regardless of motivation behind it.. #stilltrusting

15 ) Colin Wright / USA
11/02/2014 11:22
To Brian Cohen #2: '...And, of course, Arabs get a hearing in the Israeli supreme court - something that the blacks never got in south africa before 1992...' Even by your standards, Brain, that's a foolishly ignorant remark. I'm sure the South African Supreme Court heard many cases involving blacks and the rights of blacks before 1992.

16 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
18/02/2014 23:27
Colin - your anti-Israel hatred blinds you to everything including the fact that a settler is the director of the Israel national parks authority, and is backing the residents of Batir. You pretend that there is apartheid where there isn't. You pretend that there are crimes on the Israeli side and only peaceful protest by the Pals - who are famous for suicide bombings against civilians. And, of course, you pretend that armistice lines are borders. They are not. You're pathetic.
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