Routing the Separation Barrier to enable the expansion of Israeli settlements

A general view over the separation wall near the Qalandya checkpoint, between Jerusalem and the West Bank town of Ramallah October 17, 2005. (MAANnews/Moti Milrod)

In June 2002, the government of Israel approved the first stage of a physical barrier that will separate the West Bank and Israel. The official reason for the decision was the wave of suicide attacks carried out by Palestinians against Israeli citizens in the preceding months. Over the next three years, the government and the Political-Security Cabinet approved additional stages of the barrier, as well as changes in the route in previously approved sections. In accordance with the government’s last decision, in February 2005, the barrier is expected to be 680 kilometers in length. As of November 2005, one-third of the entire barrier has been built, one-third is under construction, and the construction of one-third of the barrier has not begun.

Officially, the purpose of the barrier is to prevent attacks, by means of a physical separation between the West Bank and Israel. However, only some twenty percent of the barrier’s route will run along the border between them, the Green Line. As a result, more than 530,000 dunams [4 dunams = 1 acre], which represents 9.5 percent of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) will ultimately be situated between the barrier and the Green Line. This area contains twenty-one Palestinian villages, which are home to more than 30,000 residents, and some 200,000 Palestinians who hold Israeli identity cards and live in East Jerusalem. After the barrier is constructed, all of these people will be separated from the West Bank. In addition, as a result of its winding route, the barrier will surround on at least three sides fifty more Palestinian villages, in which 244,000 persons live, that lie on the “Palestinian” side of the barrier.

Where the sections of the barrier have been completed, the barrier severely violates the human rights of Palestinians living near the route, in large part because of restrictions on freedom of movement. Thousands of families living east of the barrier are separated from their farmland situated west of the barrier, impairing their ability to earn a living. The barrier makes it difficult for residents of villages situated between the barrier and the Green Line, and residents of the eastern suburbs of Jerusalem, to obtain health services, obtain an education, and maintain family and social ties as they did in the past. In most cases, the barrier’s route runs right alongside the village’s built-up area, and often surrounds the village on three sides, blocking any possibility of urban development and breaching the residents’ planning rights. Finally, construction of the barrier severely impinges the right of property: it limits access to private property, and the construction itself entails the taking of tens of thousands of dunams of private land and the destruction of agricultural property, such as trees, greenhouses, and irrigation systems.

The barrier’s penetration into the West Bank, which is the cause of most of the human rights violations, occurred mostly in areas in which Israeli settlements are located, leaving them on the “Israeli” side of the barrier. The route approved by the government in February 2005 leaves fifty-five settlements (twelve of them in East Jerusalem) west of the barrier, separated from the rest of the West Bank and contiguous with the State of Israel.

Despite the obvious connection between the settlements and the barrier’s route, Israel’s approach on many aspects of this connection has been characterized by an extreme lack of transparency. For example, while Israel officially contends that the objective underlying the inclusion of these fifty-five settlements on the “Israeli” side of the barrier is to protect the settlers’ lives, senior government officials have broadly hinted that the real purpose is to prepare the land for annexation by Israel. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, for example, said in an interview that the “settlement blocs,” which will be located on the western side of the separation barrier, “will be part of the State of Israel, contiguous with Israel, with many more people.”(1) Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz made a similar declaration.(2)

The goal of this report is to shed light on questions related to the connection between the settlements and the separation barrier’s route: Have the expansion plans of settlements remaining on the “Israeli” side of the barrier played a significant role in determining the route, and if so, to what extent? To what degree, if at all, are the security reasons mentioned by Israel addressed in the areas around these settlements? To what degree do the sections of the barrier that surround the settlements violate the human rights of Palestinians living near the barrier?

The first chapter of the report presents our principal claims and findings, which will be developed in the case studies discussed in following chapters. The chapter points out the significant inconsistencies between the security considerations Israel purportedly relied on in setting the route, and the reasons relating to expansion of the settlements, as the report’s findings show.

The next four chapters examine the connection between the barrier’s route and the settlement-expansion plan in four different areas. The examination is made, in part, by means of analysis of the outline plans and aerial photos. Each of these chapters concentrates on a different pattern of human-rights violations resulting from the barrier’s route. Chapter 2 involves the settlement Zufin, which is situated north of Qalqiliya, and examines the harm caused to residents of the nearby Palestinian villages, who are now separated from their farmland as a result of the settlement’s expansion plans. Chapter 3 is a case study of the settlement Alfe Menashe, which lies south of Qalqiliya. In this chapter, we examine the connection between the expansion plans and the harm suffered by residents of nearby Palestinian villages that have become an enclave separated from the rest of the West Bank. Chapter 4 analyzes Neve Ya’akov, a settlement (“neighborhood” in Israeli parlance) that lies within the borders of the Jerusalem Municipality. This case study discusses the grave effect of the inclusion of lands situated outside the city’s borders, intended for the expansion of Neve Ya’akov, on the urban development of the neighboring Palestinian village of a-Ram. Chapter 5 discusses a bloc of settlements west of Ramallah, of which Modi’in Illit is the central settlement, and examines the claim that the barrier is intended to advance the bloc’s expansion, in part by taking control of privately-owned Palestinian farmland.

Chapter 6 provides initial information on the existence of a link between the barrier’s route and the expansion plans of eight other settlements: Rehan, Sal’it, Oranit, Ofarim, Ariel, Qedumim, Alon Shvut (Gevaot), and Eshkolot. This chapter includes aerial photos of the particular settlement, on which the barrier’s route, the jurisdictional area of the settlement, and the borders of the expansion plans are shown.

Chapter 7 analyzes the legality of the route around the settlements in light of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

Following the report’s conclusions, two appendixes are attached to provide a brief explanation of two principal subjects discussed in the report. Appendix 1 deals with the procedure for declaring and registering land in the West Bank as state land. Appendix 2 describes the building and planning bureaucracy in the settlements, and explains fundamental terms appearing in the report.

The state’s response to the report, prepared by the Ministry of Justice, is included at the end.

To download the full report (PDF) click here.


[1] Aluf Benn and Nir Hasson, “Sharon: The Evacuation will Begin in Mid-August,” Ha’aretz, 10 May 2005.

[2] Aluf Benn and Amos Harel, “Mofaz Promises to Strengthen the Settlement Blocs,” Ha’aretz, 13 September 2005.

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