“One Year After the ICJ Ruling: Israel’s Construction of the Wall and Settlements Continues Unabated”


One year after the International Court of Justice found that Israel’s construction of the Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and in East Jerusalem contravenes international law, Israel continues its construction of the Wall and the expansion of settlements, particularly around East Jerusalem.

On 9 July 2004, The Court found that Israel is obligated to stop construction and dismantle the Wall, to terminate its breaches of international law involved in the Wall regime, and to nullify all related legislation and policies. It ruled that Israel must "return the land, orchards, olive groves and other immovable property seized from any natural or legal person for purposes of construction of the Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory" (par.153).

The Court also determined that to build the Wall, Israel destroyed or confiscated Palestinian property in violation of international law (par. 132). It found that Israel’s severe restrictions on Palestinian movement violate international human rights and humanitarian law (par.134), that the Wall impedes Palestinians’ right to work, health, and education (par.134), and, the Wall severely impedes the exercise by Palestinians of their right to self-determination (par. 122).

Israel’s Response to the ICJ Ruling

According to a 6 July 2005 report by the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon complained that the construction of the Wall was moving at a slow pace and ordered his defense department to speed up construction. Israel’s Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz reportedly gave orders as well to accelerate construction of the Wall around Jerusalem.

During 2004, Israel’s Peace Now Organization found that Israel carried out large-scale construction in 42 Jewish settlements on both sides of the Wall. The group stated that Israel’s Wall construction and land confiscation continued unabated, particularly around East Jerusalem and the southern West Bank.

On 21 March 2005, Israel approved plans to build 3,500 new housing units between the Jewish settlement of Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem (E-1 Plan). The new units would consolidate Israel’s control over East Jerusalem and divide the West Bank in half. The Wall’s route continues to threaten Palestinian viability by segmenting the West Bank, annexing Palestinian resources, restricting Palestinian freedom of movement, separating Palestinians from schools, health services and jobs, and depriving thousands of Palestinians from their ability to earn a livelihood. Upon its completion, the Wall will be approximately 832 km (516 mi) in length, or twice the length of the Green Line.

Wall Update

On 20 February 2005, the Israeli government approved a "new" Wall route. However, 80 percent of the Wall’s route remains inside the Occupied Palestinian Territory, thereby annexing about 10 percent of the West Bank and leaving 240,000 Palestinians outside the Wall. Moreover, the new route leaves intact most Wall sections deep inside the northern and central West Bank, while making only minor changes in the northwest Jerusalem area. The revised route would circle the Ariel settlement and several other settlements known as the "Ariel Finger." The Ariel settlement of some 20,000 settlers is 17 km (10.5 mi) inside the West Bank.

The Wall has severed Bethlehem from its historic religious and economic ties to Jerusalem, while isolating 19,300 Palestinians in five adjacent villages from their socioeconomic hub in Bethlehem.

According to recent Israeli press reports, 28 percent of the planned route has been completed and 24 percent is under construction. Forty-two percent of the Wall is in various stages of planning while 11 percent is under consideration by the defense establishment and the State prosecution. Five percent of construction is on hold due to petitions made to the Israeli Supreme Court and 8 percent in new construction is to start "soon."

Palestinians argue that the Wall facilitates Israeli settlement expansion plans, particularly in Jerusalem and the areas trapped between the Wall and Israel. For Palestinians, the Wall is another means for Israel to achieve its strategy of annexing as much Palestinian land as possible and confining as many Palestinians as possible.

Settlement Activity in 2005

In February, the Israeli media revealed approved plans to build thousands of new housing units in West Bank settlements, particularly around East Jerusalem. On 25 February, Reuters reported that Israel plans to build 6,391 new housing units in major West Bank settlements in 2005. That is more than three and a half times the number in 2004 (1,784) and five and a half times that in 2003 (1,224). Nearly half the total planed units are slated for the expansion of settlements in Jerusalem.

Since January 2005, Israel has issued 123 new tenders for West Bank settlements. Just over half of these are in the Jerusalem area. The remainder are for settlements in the central West Bank.

Despite Israel’s Road Map obligation to dismantle all settler outposts created since March 2001, a January 2005 report by the Israeli group Peace Now found ongoing, permanent construction in fifteen of the 99 or more settler outposts in the West Bank. Another twelve outposts are undergoing other forms of expansion.

Land Confiscation

A 2005 study by the Palestinian Monitoring Group (PMG), which documents Israel’s Wall activity, reported that Israel continued to confiscate Palestinian land for the construction of the Wall, particularly around East Jerusalem.

The group found that in January the Israeli army issued confiscation orders for 938 dunums (equivalent to 234 acres) north of Jerusalem for the construction of the Wall in order to expand the Givat Ze’ev settlement.

In February, confiscation orders were issued for 25 dunums (6.4 acres) of land for the construction of the Wall in Jerusalem and 128 dunums (32 acres) for that in the northern West Bank. In April, confiscation orders were issued for 280 dunums (70 acres) near the northern West Bank town of Tulkarem for fences around the nearby Jewish settlements Avnei Hefetz and ‘Enav.

Palestinian Home Demolitions

According to PMG, in March 2005 the Israeli army issued demolition orders for fourteen Palestinian homes and agriculture buildings near the approved route of the Wall and planned expansion area of the Efrat settlement southwest of Bethlehem. Two Palestinian homes were demolished northeast of Jerusalem and orders for four other homes were issued. All six homes are located near the approved Wall route around the Adumim settlement bloc.

Israeli Infrastructure

In order to link the Ariel settlement in the northern West Bank with those in the Jordan Valley, Israeli construction is under way for two massive four-lane settler highways. The Trans-Samaria Highway will cut across the central West Bank when completed. A second Trans-Samaria Highway is also underway, isolating several Palestinian communities north of the Wall.

Israeli plans for a network of Israeli-controlled roads and tunnels are underway to connect Palestinian communities isolated by the Wall, Israeli settlements, and the various closure systems. Seven of 27 tunnels planned for Palestinians in the West Bank have been completed.

The Significance of the ICJ Ruling

The 9 July 2004 ruling is the first from the Court regarding the legality of Israel’s actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. The conclusions reached by the Court pertaining to Israel’s obligations are based on binding laws such as United Nations Security Council resolutions and the Fourth Geneva Conventions. States are obliged to ensure that international law is followed.

The Court’s ruling specifically recognizes the role of the international community by calling upon nations to "ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law" (par.146).