TEHRAn, YJC. -- The head of Central Command has ordered the fences surrounding the settlements of Ofra and Adam to be taken down by Friday − nearly three months after the deadline that the Israel Defense Forces had committed to at the High Court of Justice.
According to petitions, unauthorized fences had been built around the two settlements in the northern West Bank, which blocked Palestinian farmers from their land.
The IDF had told the High Court that the fences would be destroyed by the end of 2012, and new ones would be built. Now the head of Central Command, Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, has ruled that the fences will be destroyed even though their replacements have yet to be built. Instead, the communities will be defended by IDF patrols.
The Ofra community association petitioned the court on Wednesday against this plan. The justices are scheduled to rule on the petition early this week. The fences surrounding Ofra and Adam were discussed in petitions filed by Palestinian residents of nearby villages Jaba and Silwad.
In May 2011, the state told the court that "as part of the background work to map the illegal fencing in the Binyamin area and after examining its legality, a draft has been prepared” regarding the settlements’ security.
It said it hoped that in the end, damage would be limited to private property as much as possible.
Regarding a timetable, the state said "the establishment of the alternative security components would be carried out at the end of 2012, subject to completion of preparatory work, authorization and budget.”
The state told the court it had given the work on the fences a high priority in a comprehensive plan prepared by the IDF’s Judea and Samaria Division.
Taking the declarations at face value, the High Court canceled the petitions. In the matter of Silwad, Justice Elyakim Rubinstein wrote in September 2011 that "in light of the work’s progress and its expected duration until the end of 2012, the solution proposed ... seems sufficient.”
In October 2011, Justice Eliezer Rivlin rejected a petition by Jaba residents, noting that there was "no reason for the court to intervene.” He said "it would be proper to consider the possibility of speeding up the completion of the work in a shorter period than has been proposed. I have learned that as of now the work has not begun due to the process of issuing a tender. These administrative processes can certainly be expedited.”
Last February, Haaretz checked on the status of the state’s commitment. It turned out that nothing had been done. Central Command requested a budget for the new fence project, and the request was denied. Since then, the issue has been largely forgotten.
Documents obtained by Haaretz show that in October 2011, the army’s legal adviser stated that the work’s progress should be closely monitored. Cpt. Nofar Shefi of the army’s legal department sent a leader to the Judea and Samaria Division commander’s secretary.
"The current court ruling bears an important message to the state’s authorities: In a place where illegality and rights violations take place over the course of years, the authorities cannot neglect their responsibilities to enforce the ruling and reverse those violations of rights,” she wrote.
"I remind you that the court ruling is based on the timetable presented by the state to determine when the construction must be completed. Any future deviation from the timetable could result in a renewal of court petitions.”