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Dishonesty hurts us

By Shaul Arieli, Ynet, 01.08.07  

In the latest ruling regarding the question of the cement barrier in south Mount Hebron, Chief Justice Dorit Beinish noted that "the State chose not to comply with a court order…" and managed to arouse part of the Israeli public, which is so indifferent to the social, legal, and government implications entailed in the attempt to construct the West Bank security fence along political lines, while repeatedly and falsely presenting it as a route based only on security considerations.
The unbearable ease with which IDF, Defense Ministry, and Justice Ministry officials decided that "the State…despite the court order, intends to keep the existing barrier…" is not unusual. In the past two years it has increasingly become clear that the "nails" on the finger-like enclaves within the fence in Ariel, Kedumim, Beit Arieh and Karnei Shomron are growing in the wrong direction and are wounding the flesh.
The High Court ruling this month showed how the change of major-generals at the IDF Central Command made way for changing a route that has been modified and already approved by the government, because of a desire to expand a settlement rather than to protect the setters that reside there today.
"The amazement regarding the change in the security considerations grows in light of the fact that the military commander approved in principle the planning of a new neighborhood in a manner that will see homes built 150 meters (roughly 500 feet) away from the security fence," Chief Justice Beinish ruled. "It was not made clear to us how this conforms to the security doctrine that calls for a need for an advanced warning and pursuit buffer zone hundreds of meters away from the homes of Israeli citizens…"
Another dangerous phenomenon was revealed when the High Court ruled in September 2005 that the State must remove the five Palestinian villages confined within the Alfei Menashe enclave out of the fence.
The ongoing attempts to outsmart the High Court gave rise to "creative" proposals such as the one presented by the Judea and Samaria legal advisor in the form of "examining the possibility to propose to the Bedouin residents (in two of the villages) a living arrangement at a site outside the fence". That is, instead of modifying the fence route, we shall transfer the Palestinians.
Unreasonable interpretation
One of the highlights of the maladies caused by the political route is the cement barrier affair that was back in the news recently.
It started with an Ariel Sharon attempt to circumvent a High Court ruling and the government's decision to move the fence route closer to the Green Line by building a cement barrier near the old route meant to disconnect south Mount Hebron from the Palestinian living space and boost the isolated settlements there. That way, the government could pride itself on following the High Court ruling while at the same time promoting its political caprices.
State representatives at court sessions did not shy away from presenting ridiculous "security" arguments that contradict the IDF's official combat doctrine. Chief Justice Barak's clear ruling to remove the barrier was not honored. State representatives proposed a solution that on the face of it was blatantly unable to constitute a reasonable interpretation of the court ruling.
Yet the defense minister and his deputy, who joined the decision-making process late, continued to accept this interpretation, which was sadly also backed by the deputy attorney general, Mike Blass. The court session ended in another ruling that called for the barrier's dismantlement within 14 days.
This series of events and others exposes an aspect that is even more painful to Israeli society than the argument over the fence's route. The attempt to paint the political route in a security veneer dragged some of the State's official representatives to places that will not be fondly remembered.
They forgot that the rule of law contributes to Israel's national strength much more than a few thousand dunams in the West Bank, which Israel's leaders are attempting to take away from the Palestinians. This is sometimes done through a route that in fact undermines security.
They also forget that the political leadership's control over the military is a critical condition for the utilization of power and violence by a democratic state, even if political leaders find it difficult to "look into security details" and "require some time to study the issue."
Shaul Ariel is a member of the Council for Peace and Security's directorate.