In gazing through the Israeli dailies I found this story both on Haaretz and Ynet regarding the Israelis taking down part of the fence separating the Palestinian village of Bil'in from it's lands.
In 2007, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the barrier as it is constructed in Bil'in significantly impinged on the rights of the Palestinian property owners. The village has been a focal point for both Israeli and Palestinian activists to rally against the barrier and two people have been killed in protests over this.
The length of fence set to be removed from Bilin is 2.7 kilometers long. The new route which is set to replace the existing fence is 3.2 kilometers long, mostly a cement wall, due to the proximity to Modiin Elite and fears of gunfire from the Palestinian side at Israel.
The new route will mean that 700 dunums of land will be given back to the Palestinians, but the fact that 60% of the lands were expropriated to begin with means that the conflict still stands.
Meanwhile the protestors say they intend to continue to protest but might do so less frequently. "We will continue to struggle until all our lands, without exception are given back and the occupation is over," Mohammad Khatib, a member of the Bilin people's committee told Ynet.
And Haaretz had this to say: Defense Ministry begins dismantling section of West Bank barrier
In the past six years, the village has become a symbol for the Palestinians with left-wing Israelis and activists from across the world joining the villagers every Friday for a protest. The protests have at times become violent, with activists throwing stones at Israel Defense Forces troops, who respond by firing tear gas.
Two Palestinians have been killed in the protests up until now.
The security establishment hopes to finish taking apart the section of the barrier by the end of the coming week. Yet, left-wing activists are already planning on joining the villagers in a march towards the new path of the barrier, which they say is still blocking off thousands of dunams of land from the village.
Israel began building the 680-kilometer barrier along the West Bank in 2002, crediting the fence with contributing to a decline in suicide bombings.
Here is some information on Bil'in
Since January 2005, the village has been organizing weekly protests against the construction of the West Bank Barrier. The protests have attracted media attention and the participation of many international organizations as well as left-wing groups such as Gush Shalom, Anarchists Against the Wall and the International Solidarity Movement. The protests take the form of marches from the village to the site of the wall with the aim of halting construction and dismantling already constructed portions. Israeli forces always intervene to prevent protesters from approaching the wall, and violence usually erupts in which both protesters and soldiers have been very seriously injured. The protestors arrive with gas masks and shout chants including “Israel is a fascist state!” Palestinian boys have been seen flinging stones at the soldiers from a position not among but to the right of the protestors. The weekly protests, which last a few minutes, regularly draw international activists such as Richard Bronson and President Jimmy Carter, who come to support the Palestinian movement.
The question now is what's behind this move. After four years why is Israel suddenly recognizing (or partially recognizing) the judgement of it's own Supreme Court?
As a purely speculative guess I think this is the beginning of a move to establish permanent borders by the Netanyahu government. Now, I am only pulling this out of thin air (or my rear end for those of you who are not my fans ;-). But only today in Danny Ayalon told Maan News:
"But Ayalon dismissed the wall as an obstacle, saying it was "not an obstacle to peace," and could be "dismantled at any moment."
thus I think stressing that this kind of thing can happen if there are negotiations. Now coming from the Defense Ministry this is also interesting as the Israeli Cabinet voted to put to a General Knesset vote the chance of stripping the Defense Ministry of decision making power over new settlements.
Still, this move in itself only returns 700 dunams of land to the village. There are still thousands more that have been appropriated.
I am curious to hear everyone elses thoughts. Do you all think that this is a good thing, a bad thing..... something that doesn't matter?