Israeli Court Orders a Reroute of West Bank Wall

The Israeli High Court rejected government plans on Monday to build a section of its barrier in the occupied West Bank, saying the proposed route encroached too much on Palestinian land.

Palestinians welcomed the ruling, but negotiator Saeb Erekat said far more had to be done.

"It just solves one problem. How many hundreds of other problems do we have in the West Bank?" he said.

The High Court ordered the government to re-route part of the barrier near the West Bank village of Bilin to ensure that it was largely or entirely built on Israeli rather than Palestinian land.

Israeli officials were not immediately available to comment.

Israel says the barrier, made up of wire fence and concrete walls, is meant to keep out suicide bombers.
 
Collective Punishment

Palestinians call it collective punishment and a land grab that denies them territory that they want for a future state.

The barrier in Bilin cuts some 3 km (2 miles) into the village, separating some farmers from their fields.

Bilin Mayor Ahmed Yasin had petitioned the court in 2005 to prevent the Israeli government from confiscating land from the village, which has become a flashpoint between anti-barrier protesters and Israeli troops.

Attorney Michael Sfard, who represented Bilin in the case, said the decision was important because it made clear Israel cannot create a so-called "security" buffer zone that juts so deeply into Palestinian territory.

The court had previously asked the government to re-route the barrier near Bilin, prompting Israel to submit the new blueprints, which were rejected on Monday.

In its eight-page ruling, the three-judge panel called on the government to comply with the order "without any further delays".

Erekat said Israel’s continued expansion of the barrier and Jewish settlements were "obstacles to peace" and he called Israel to halt construction.
 
Entry Denied

Israel earlier denied entry to a special U.N. investigator who planned to travel to the Palestinian territories to document human rights conditions, Israeli and U.N. officials said.

Border police prevented Richard Falk, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Israeli behavior in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, from entering Israel when he arrived at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on Sunday.

Falk had angered Israel by making remarks comparing its forces’ actions in the Gaza Strip to those of the Nazis in wartime Europe. He was put on a plane back to Geneva on Monday.

U.N. officials said Falk, who is Jewish, has been tasked with preparing reports on human rights violations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"He was coming to follow up on his mandate, meet people and collect first-hand information," a U.N. official said.

A U.S. professor, Falk is fiercely critical of what he describes as "pro-Israel" influence on U.S. foreign policies.
 
Anti-Israel Initiative

Yigal Palmor, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Falk was denied entry because his mandate from the U.N.’s Human Rights Council was "profoundly distorted and conceived as an anti-Israel initiative".

"It has nothing to do with the promotion of human rights," Palmor said, noting that Falk’s mandate allows him to report only on Israeli violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the territories.

Israel argues that Palestinian attacks on civilian targets in Israel are in breach of global pacts and should be condemned.

The human rights group Adalah protested Israel’s decision to deport Falk, calling it a "severe blow to the rights of the Palestinian civilian population living under Israeli occupation".

The Human Rights Council has held several sessions to condemn Israeli policy in the territories but has generally shielded Islamic and African countries from criticism.

Israel’s closest ally, the United States, announced earlier this year that it was suspending participation in the Council, where it was an observer.

European and some Latin American countries have also voiced concern at the direction the body is taking.

(Agencies via Alarabiya.net)

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