Israel Nature & Parks Authority in Response to FoEME Petition Against the Separation Barrier in Battir
2012-12-11
MEDIA RELEASE
 
Israel Nature & Parks Authority (NPA) in Response to FoEME Petition
Against the Separation Barrier in Battir
 Call on Israeli High Court to Request that the Military Reconsider Building a Physical Barrier through the Cultural Landscape of Battir
 
December 11, 2012
 
In an unusual turn of events, an Israeli government authority, being the Nature and Parks Authority (NPA), has responded in favor of an NGO petition to the High Court of Israel and contrary to the opinion of the other respondents in the same case, being the Government of Israel, Minister of Defense and the IDF Commander of the West Bank.
 
On December 2, 2012, Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME), a regional environmental NGO made up of Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians, petitioned the High Court of Israel requesting that the court prevent the Israeli military from building the Separation Barrier through the agricultural terraces in the Battir area, on the grounds that the barrier would cause irreversible damage to a natural and cultural heritage site that the government of Israel was obliged by law to protect.
 
Battir, a Palestinian Village in the West Bank is home to a living web of agricultural terraces, some 4,000 years old, that begin in the West Bank and cross over to Israel. The Rhodes Armistice Agreement of 1949 signed then between Israel and Jordan (who at that time controlled the West Bank) gave Battir residents free access to continue to cultivate their fields on both sides of the divide in recognition of the need to keep the integrity and continuity of this special site in place.
 
FoEME petitioned the High Court of Justice naming the Government of Israel, Minister of Defense, the IDF Commander of the West Bank and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority as respondents. Though the Government of Israel, Minister of Defense and the IDF Commander of the West Bank responded to the FoEME petition by calling on the court to reject the petition, the 4th respondent - the NPA - called on the court to accept the petition.
 
An unofficial translation of the NPA response states:
“It will be clarified that the path of the barrier was planned in 2005 together with the Respondent. Due to the difficult security situation prevailing at the time, environmental concerns were pushed aside, in favor of security concerns. Since then, many years have passed and the barrier has yet to be built. This fact teaches us that the barrier project is no longer operating in an emergency environment.
 
Considering this and considering the important public interest of protecting this special and valuable area for the benefit of the public and future generations, the respondent is of the opinion that at this time it is pertinent to reconsider the situation and enquire whether alternatives exist that do not require the building of a physical barrier.”
 
Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director of FoEME said “The NPA should be congratulated for keeping true to their mission and clarifying to the court that the barrier, if built, would indeed lead to irreversible damage, highlighting the need to reassess the impact of the barrier even beyond Battir.”
 
Contrary to the response of the NPA, submitted to the court this morning, the military denies irreversible damage to the Battir landscape.
 
“We find it odd that the military is stating an opinion pertaining to environmental and cultural heritage values - issues on which they have no expertise - contrary to the opinion of the NPA, known to the military in advance, and without attaching a single expert opinion to support their position”, continued Bromberg.
 
The High Court Hearing will be held in Jerusalem tomorrow December 12, 2012, starting 9am.
 
From 8:30 am FoEME supporters, together with residents from Battir, will gather at the entrance to the court.
 
For more information: Gidon Bromberg, FoEME Israeli Director: 052-4532597