JERUSALEM: Israel’s High Court ordered the military yesterday to reconsider the route of a portion of its security barrier, which was to pass through the West Bank village of Battir, an environmental NGO said.
“The High Court this afternoon... ordered the military to present an alternative plan within 90 days,” the Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) group said.
“We are convinced that, due to the unique nature of the area under discussion, there is a need for the security officials to reconsider, in particular as regards the nature of the barrier and security arrangements of the problematic areas,” the group quoted the court decision as saying. The route of Israel’s barrier in the West Bank has been challenged on multiple occasions, but the court decision comes after an unusual coalition jointly contested the portion due to pass through Battir.
FoEME, along with residents of the village and the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority, argued that that the planned route would damage a network of ancient terraces in Battir, calling on the court to force a reroute.
Battir, located west of Bethlehem, is famous for the terraces dating back thousands of years that the Palestinians hope will receive Unesco World Heritage status next year.
Israel’s defence ministry argued that the route would not damage or affect the terraces, and urged the court to leave the plan intact.
FoEME’s Israel director Gidon Bromberg said the group was “delighted” with the court decision.
“The military had failed to bring a single expert in the field of cultural and natural heritage to support their case, yet they constantly claimed that they were striking the right balance between the needs of security and heritage values,” he said in a statement.
“We trust that this time the military will reconsider security options based on the advice of heritage experts.”
The defence ministry had no immediate comment on the court decision.
JERUSALEM: Israel’s attorney general yesterday charged Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman with fraud and breach of trust, just over five weeks before a snap election, but dropped more serious allegations against him.
The announcement prompted immediate opposition calls for Lieberman’s resignation, but the controversial politician’s lawyers played down the charges, saying ministers charged with similar offences in the past had not stepped down.
“After examining the file, I have arrived at the conclusion that there is insufficient evidence to charge him in the first case and have decided to close it,” attorney general Yehuda Weinstein said in a statement. But a lesser case, which includes allegations of fraud and breach of trust, would go ahead, he added.
“I decided to proceed with a case against Lieberman for having suggested in December 2009 that the government name the former ambassador to Belarus to a post in another country, despite the fact that - according to the evidence presented - he knew that he done wrong in passing along secret information, including details of a police enquiry against Lieberman,” he said.
The decision closes a case that included explosive allegations of fraud, money-laundering and witness tampering. Lieberman has always proclaimed his innocence of all the allegations against him.
While the closing of the main case against him is something of a victory for Lieberman, who leads the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, he still faces enormous pressure to resign over the charges, ahead of January 22 elections.
Shortly after Weinstein’s announcement, the HaTnua party led by former foreign minister Tzipi Livni issued a statement saying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should force Lieberman’s resignation.AFP