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Israel's Separation: Bad Fences Make Bad Neighbors

PLO Negotiations Affairs Department

Israel's Unilateral Separation: Bad Fences Make Bad Neighbors

Frequently Asked Questions:

Israel has recently announced that it will "isolate" Palestinians from Israelis (both inside Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories) by erecting "walls" and "buffer zones" in a plan styled "unilateral separation."

1. What's wrong with Israel's unilateral separation and the construction of a wall?

The wall will not be built on Israel's border. [1] Israel has already announced that it will build the wall to the east of Israel's border in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, thereby de facto annexing more Palestinian land. The strategy is to annex as much Palestinian land as possible while militarily caging in as many Palestinians as possible, all in an attempt to continue Israel's colonization and occupation of Palestinian land. At the same time, Israel will effectively isolate Palestinian population centers from one another,[2] and restrict not only freedom of movement of individuals but also of goods and services, thereby worsening an already crippled Palestinian economy.

2. Where is Israel planning to build the wall?

Israel will build the wall east of Israel's 1967 border in Occupied Palestinian Territory, thereby de facto annexing more Palestinian land, in particular with respect to Occupied East Jerusalem.

Not only will Israel build a wall, Israel has also begun erecting militarily-enforced electrified fences around Palestinian controlled "Areas A" (consisting of approximately 17.2% of the West Bank divided into 13 separate non-contiguous ghettos). The wall, the fences and the new movement restrictions for Palestinians[3] effectively cage Palestinians into Israeli-created ghettos or Bantustans.

Israel is not building the wall on the 1967 border. Israeli governments led by both Labor and Likud have repeatedly stated that Israel will not return to the pre-1967 border.[4]

3. Isn't the wall necessary for Israel's security?

No. The wall is not protecting Israeli citizens inside Israel, it is instead protecting Israel's occupation, illegal colonies and ongoing colonization of Palestinian land. If Israel is truly interested in its security it will do one or both of the following: (1) withdraw completely from all of the territories it occupied in 1967 or (2) place additional security on its internationally-recognized border, rather than in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Israel has long had the formula for peace and security - end the occupation. In exchange for its complete withdrawal from Palestinian and other Arab land occupied in 1967, Israel will live in peace and in security. Despite the fact that peace and normalization were recently offered to Israel by the entire Arab world during the Arab League Summit of March 2002, Israel walked away from this gesture, demonstrating that it prefers land and colonization to peace and security.

4. What is Israel really trying to do by building a wall?

Israel is attempting to annex parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories by establishing militarily-enforced Palestinian ghettos corresponding to the Palestinian population centers, while continuing its illegal colonization policy. The walls will ensure that Palestinians are denied the ability to move, while Israeli settlers will be able to freely travel throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Unilateral separation and walls will also ensure that Occupied East Jerusalem is completely sealed off from the rest of the Occupied West Bank, in violation of international law, UN Resolutions and the stated policy of the United States.[5]

5. Is Israel's unilateral separation legal under international law?

No. Unilateral separation violates the Fourth Geneva Convention, including the following obligations which cannot be abrogated by invoking "military necessity":

· Prohibition on the Use of Collective Punishment:

No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited. (Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 33(1))

The wall will serve to divide the Occupied Palestinian Territories with movement from one area to another controlled entirely by the Israeli army, in effect punishing the entire Palestinian population. Jewish Israelis illegally living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories will, however, enjoy total freedom of movement.

· Prohibition Against Annexation:

Protected persons who are in occupied territory shall not be deprived, in any case or in any manner whatsoever, of the benefits of the present Convention by any change introduced, as the result of the occupation of a territory, into the institutions or government of the said territory, nor by any agreement concluded between the authorities of the occupied territories and the Occupying Power, nor by any annexation by the latter of the whole or part of the occupied territory. (Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 47)

Israel will de facto annex additional areas of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

6. Is Israel's unilateral separation legal under the Oslo Agreements?

No, unilateral separation violates the Oslo Agreements.

· Obligation to Preserve the Territorial Integrity of the Occupied Palestinian Territories:

The two sides view the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single territorial unit, the integrity and status of which will be preserved during the interim period. (Interim Agreement, Chapter 2, Article XI)

The construction of a wall within the Occupied Palestinian Territories violates the territorial integrity of the West Bank.

· Prohibition Against Restricting Freedom of Movement:

Without derogating from Israel's security powers and responsibilities in accordance with this Agreement, movement of people, vehicles and goods in the West Bank, between cities, towns, villages and refugee camps, will be free and normal and shall not need to be effected through checkpoints or roadblocks. (Interim Agreement, Annex I, Article IX, para 2(a))

Israel's security powers, with respect to freedom of movement, extend only to prohibiting or limiting the entry into Israel of persons and of vehicles from the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Building a wall within the Occupied West Bank affects Palestinian freedom of movement not only into Israel, but also within and throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

7. What is the international community doing to stop this?

Nothing that has had any effect. The Fourth Geneva Convention obliges the international community to ensure that the Convention, the primary purpose of which is to protect a population under occupation, is respected:

The High Contracting Parties undertake to respect and ensure respect for the present Convention in all circumstances. (Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 1)

Despite the fact that these actions are illegal under international law and the Oslo Agreements, the international community has not stopped Israel. The international community continues to teach Israel that it is above the law.


[1] Aluf Benn, PM okays Green Line border fence, Ha'aretz, June 4, 2002 at 1: "The major change was that the fence.would run east of a number of settlements on the seam, as well as east of the Palestinian settlements (sic) of Kfar Barta and Baka al Sharkia."

[2] See PLO, Fact Sheet: Palestinian Movement Restrictions Highlight Israeli Apartheid, Israel recently announced that Palestinians now need to obtain permits issued by the Israeli Army for travel between Palestinian cities within the Occupied West Bank. These permits, reminiscent of South African "passbooks," effectively imprison Palestinians into ghettos.

[3] Id.

[4] Even the "left" leaders of Israel have stated that Israel will never abide by international law by returning to its 1967 border:

There must be physical separation from the Palestinians, with us being here and them being there, in accordance with four security red lines . . . We need peace and separation on the ground. Jerusalem will remain united under Israel's sovereignty forever. Period. Second, there will be no return to the 1967 borders on any account. Third, there will be no foreign army west of the Jordan River. Fourth, most of the Israeli settlers in Judea and Samaria will be clustered in large settlement blocs. ---Barak on Israel Television's Channel 1, December 27, 1998

Barak's 1998 separation plan is very similar to what he tried to impose at the Camp David peace talks in July 2000 (see PLO, Frequently Asked Questions: Camp David Peace Proposal, ) and what he later proposed in December 2001.

[5] For additional information, see PLO, Fact Sheet: Gilo- Jewish "Neighborhood" or War Crime?,

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