High Court of Justice injunctions put Ariel area fence on hold

By Ze’ev Schiff, Haaretz Correspondent Israel has halted the construction of the separation fence in the area of Ariel in the northern West Bank, and defense establishment sources are warning that the area is „wide open” to infiltration by terrorists. The halt is a result of injunctions issued by the High Court of Justice, in response to petitions against the route of the barrier. The petitions were filed by the councils of Palestinian villages in the area in which the eastern part of the fence is slated for construction. The deliberations on the petitions have yet to take place, but the High Court has issued temporary injunctions in response to a number of them, thus putting the brakes on the appropriation of land and infrastructure work related to the barrier. Since the cabinet approved the new route of the fence on February 20, a number of petitions have been filed, including one by residents of the village of Salfit, south of Ariel. In a document submitted to the High Court in response to one of the petitions, the state admits that the erection of the fence will require the uprooting and relocation of hundreds of olive trees on Palestinian land, and that most of the land appropriated for the purpose of the fence was privately owned by Palestinians. One of the High Court injunctions is preventing renewal of work that has already begun, close to Salfit and Askata, east of Ariel. Work has yet to begin in the other areas. Meanwhile, Israel and the United States remain at odds over the route of the fence and the construction line around the settlements. Despite the fact that President George W. Bush has defined as „unrealistic” the notion that Jewish population centers in the territories will not be included in the future borders of Israel, Washington is opposed to the idea of the fence surrounding the large settlement blocs. The U.S. administration has only consented to settlements or settlement blocs being surrounded by separate fences, which will not be joined together and will not be linked to the main route of the barrier.