Dienstag, 3. Februar 2009
“The construction of the wall being built by Israel... in the occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem... [is] contrary to international law. Israel is under obligation... to dismantle forthwith the structure... [and] make reparation for all damage caused...”
International Court of Justice advisory opinion, July 9, 2004
Israel’s Wall: The Facts
Currently, approximately 409 km (or 57%) of the planned route has been constructed. 66km (or 9%) is under construction; and construction has not yet begun on 248km (or 34%) of the planned route.
The Wall’s total length is 723km, which is twice the length of the 1949 Armistice Line (Green Line) between the West Bank and Israel.
When completed, approximately 14% of the Wall will constructed on the Green Line or in Israel, while 86% will be inside the West Bank.
Approximately 385,000 settlers in 80 settlements are located between the Wall and the Green Line.
Approximately 35,000 West Bank Palestinians will be located between the Wall and the Green Line (an area known as ‘no man’s land’). They require permits to live in their homes and can only leave their communities via a gate in the Wall. This is in addition to the majority of the 250,000 East Jerusalem residents.
Approximately 125,000 Palestinians in 28 communities will be surrounded on three sides by the Wall.
Approximately 26,000 Palestinians in 8 communities will be surrounded on four sides by the Wall, with a tunnel or road connection to the rest of the West Bank.
The cost of the Wall to the Israeli government: approximately $3.7 million per kilometer, and approx $4 billion when completed. Building the Wall along the Green Line would have saved Israel 5.7 billion NIS i.e. approx $1.7 billion (calculated with 3.4 exchange rate).
The construction of Israel’s Separation Wall began on the 16th of June, 2002 and consists of a series of 25-foot-high concrete slabs, trenches, barbed wire “buffer zones”, electrified fencing, numerous watch towers, thermal imaging video cameras, sniper towers and roads for patrol vehicles.
Israel originally claimed that the Wall was being built to protect Israel proper from attacks emanating from either the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, and that it was not meant to be a unilateral declaration of their borders. It quickly became apparent that neither of these claims were wholly true.
Israel’s own security apparatus, as well as a number of independent military analysts have consistently concluded that the Wall does little or nothing to protect Israelis from Palestinians, and that in fact, any reduction in violence coinciding with the construction of the Wall is due to political conciliation rather than the Wall itself.
Rather than serving any real security needs, it is now clear that the Wall constitutes a further effort by Israel to annex Palestinian land and resources, and enclose the major settlement blocks. Only 16% of the Wall has been constructed on the 1967 ‘Green Line’, while the rest snakes in and around major settlements. Despite rulings by both International Court of Justice and Israel’s own Supreme Court, the trajectory of the Wall has not changed. Instead, much like the settlements that it captures, the Wall constitutes a ‘fact on the ground’, or de-facto border, from which Israeli negotiators will begin to bargain.
Many experts and observers have focused on what the Wall ‘is not’ or ‘does not do’ - namely provide security for Israelis living within and beyond the 1967 Green Line - while few look at what it truly ‘is’ and what it ‘does do’ to Palestinians and the prospects of a future state. The Wall in the West Bank, captures not only land and resources, it sometimes envelopes entire Palestinian cities. When combined with the buffer zones and service roads, the Wall destroys the contiguity of the West Bank and further slices any future state into a collection of isolated cantons.
The Wall and a Viable Palestinian State
The Wall will isolate 10,2% of West Bank territory: the area located between the Green Line and the completed barrier, including East Jerusalem and ‘No Man’s Land’. In addition to this, another 28,1% of the West Bank is inaccessible to Palestinians (due to settlements, declared Israeli military areas or restricted road networks) bringing the total land area restricted from Palestinian access to 38,3%. The enclosed areas include some of the most valuable agricultural land and access to some of the richest water resources in the West Bank, which has had a severe impact on Palestinian farmers.
The Ministry of Defense Information website promises that: ’Israel will establish gates to allow free passage across the Area.’ and that ’Special arrangements have been made for Palestinian farmers separated from their lands. Gates along the Security fence will enable Palestinian farmers and their workers to cross from one side to another’.
Despite these promises, of those Palestinians who are now separated by the Wall from their farming lands and wells, less than 20% have now been granted ‘visitor’ permits to access their own lands. Even if permission is granted, it is often not given to the most appropriate person, leaving older family members to do the work, whilst the younger generation has to remain at home. The access to agricultural lands is through 64 designated gates which are currently open on a daily, weekly and/or seasonal basis. The irregular placement of the gates and the restrictive opening times gravely limits the time available for farming.
The Wall does not only severely restrict the farmers’ ability to tend to and harvest their crops, it also impairs them from selling their produce. The olive industry, which provides around 18% of the annual agricultural production income in the West Bank, has not only been harmed by the cutting down of tens of thousands of trees, but also by the lack of ability for the farmers to harvest and sell their produce. The overall damage caused by the destruction of land and property for the Wall’s construction will take many years to recover further hindering Palestinian development.
In addition to the approximately 630 closure obstacles such as checkpoints, earth mounds, and road barriers, other layers of the complex movement restrictions include: a permit regime, restrictions on the use of main roads, random checkpoints, curfews, and age and gender restrictions. The Israeli authorities are also investing large amounts of money into transport-related infrastructure in the West bank – the so called “fabric of life” roads. These are newly constructed or upgraded alternative routes designed to reconnect Palestinian communities that have been severed by the Wall or other closure obstacles. Most of these “fabric of life” roads include tunnels and underpasses going beneath the Wall or restricted road. The cost of the completed and planned infrastructure is approximately 2 billion NIS.
In September of this year OCHA commented on the Wall that, ‘what was once justified by the Israeli authorities as a short-term military response (...) appears to be developing into a permanent system’.
The Wall under International Law
In its advisory opinion on 9 July 2004, the International Court of Justice stated that Israel is in breach of international law as the “construction of the wall and its associated regime cre-ate a “fait accompli” on the ground that could well become permanent” that there is a “risk of situation tantamount to de facto annexation”. Furthermore, “the construction of the wall severely impedes the exercise by the Palestinian people of its right to self-determination and is therefore a breach of Israel’s obligation to respect that right.” The Court also ruled that “the infringements resulting from that route (of the wall) cannot be justified by military exigencies or by the require-ments of security or public order".
Israel was further obliged “to cease forthwith the works of construction of the wall, to dismantle it” and to “make reparation for the damage caused” to all those affected by the construction of the Wall, and “to return the land, orchards, olive groves and other immovable property seized”.