Its impact on Palestinian economy and movement is severe. The route of the Wall has created a large enclosed areas: land that lies between the Wall and the Green Line. Once the Wall is completed, some 50,000 Palestinians in 38 West Bank villages will be trapped in these areas. Palestinians consider this to be a deliberate strategy for forced displacement. According to OCHA July 2010 report, the total area located between the Wall and Green Line is 9,4% of the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem and No Man's land.
The Israeli government argues the Wall is intended to protect its citizens, including the West Bank settlers. However, all Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law and the Wall does not merely protect the settlements but is strategically placed to allow further future expansion and annexation of Palestinian agricultural land. When the Wall stands between Palestinian villagers and their fields, as is the case in Qalqilya, they are often cut off from their primary means of subsistence.
In June 2001, then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon launched a project to build a wall to physically separate the West Bank from Israeli territory. Earlier governments had considered the idea, but only taken limited steps towards its implementation. Sharon justified the Wall as necessary for protection of Israeli citizens from Palestinian “infiltration” and attacks.
Maps of the intended route soon emerged in the Israeli press and it became clear that the majority of the Wall would be built within the West Bank, and not along the Green Line – the de-facto 1949 frontier between Israel proper and the West Bank.
Soon after the proposed route of the wall became public, Israel began to seize and bulldoze Palestinian agricultural land for the construction of this structure. Palestinian grassroots movements saw the Wall as the latest in a long running series of Israeli policies intended to annex West Bank land, while displacing indigenous Palestinian inhabitants from their ancestral communities.
Israel has denied this and continues to maintain that the Wall is “a temporary, defensive measure” that could later “be moved to different locations” upon successful peace negotiations. However, in November 2005, Israel’s justice minister Tzipi Livni admitted that the Wall would influence “the future borders of the state of Israel”.
Although the Israeli government sought and received clearance for sections of the Wall from its court system, the Palestinian leadership challenged the legality of such a barrier on the basis of international legal principles, especially the right to freedom of movement.
Contained in article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the right to freedom of movement stipulates, “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and return to his country”.
After examining the route of the Wall, the International Court of Justice stated that although Israel's security concerns were valid, its proposed route illegitimately confiscated land from Palestinians, while facilitating Israeli settlers with opportunities to further expand into Palestinian territories.
The court also concluded that the completion of the wall would result in encirclement and isolation of communities of the West Bank from each other and from Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.
In July 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that Israel’s construction of the Wall and its associated regime in the West Bank violates the Palestinian right to self-determination and is therefore illegal. The judges called for dismantling the Wall by Israel and reparation for the damage caused thus far. Israel has essentially ignored this ruling.
Israel uses euphemistic terminology when discussing the Wall. From the beginning, it has tried to appeal to "war on terrorism" rhetoric and terminology by calling it the “anti-terrorist fence”, the “security fence” or the “separation barrier.” Palestinians tend to call it the “apartheid wall” (literally “racist separation wall” in Arabic) or the “annexation wall.”
The ICJ used the word “wall” throughout its ruling and made a point of spelling out its justification for doing so:
“The ‘wall’ in question is a complex construction, so that that term cannot be understood in a limited physical sense. However, the other terms used, either by Israel (‘fence’) or by the Secretary General [then Kofi Annan] (‘barrier’), are no more accurate if understood in the physical sense. In this opinion, the court has therefore chosen to use the terminology employed by the General Assembly [i.e. wall].”