Despite Netanyahu visit, work on southern security barrier still frozen

August 9, 2017 04:20

Netanyahu backed down when he saw he didn't have enough support from the security cabinet to resume the project, said Kfar Etzion Field School director Yaron Rosenthal.

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Despite Netanyahu visit, work on southern security barrier still frozen

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu tours sections of the West Bank security barrier’s southern loop yesterday with members of the security cabinet and others. . (photo credit: GPO)

Work on some 100 kilometers of the West Bank security barrier in Gush Etzion and the Judean Hills remains frozen after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the security cabinet toured the area on Tuesday.

Netanyahu had been expected to announce renewed work on the barrier after a Palestinian from Yatta in the South Hebron Hills stabbed Niv Nehemiah in a supermarket in Yavne.

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According to settlers and political sources, the security cabinet was due to debate and vote on resumption of the work, which along with the rest of the barrier, has been largely frozen for the last 10 years.

On Twitter, the Prime Minister’s Office and Netanyahu himself released a number of short videos showing the tour.

These included pictures of Netanyahu poring over maps, looking as if he was about to take action.

Completing the barrier in that area would have cost NIS 3 billion, said Kfar Etzion Field School director Yaron Rosenthal.

His school – along with the Gush Etzion Regional Council, Palestinians in the area and environmental groups – have opposed its construction.

In the morning, Rosenthal’s school sent a number of messages on the subject to the media and activists, warning them of the pending security cabinet vote.

By night, Rosenthal said, Netanyahu had backed down from the matter when he saw he did not have enough support from the security cabinet to approve resumption of the project.

“We are happy that the security cabinet ministers understood that the security results of the barrier paled in comparison to the harm building it would cause,” said Rosenthal.

“If it is built, the separation barrier will destroy the area of the Judean Hills and the Gush Etzion, which is among the most beautiful in the country,” he said. “We think that there is no security justification to destroy the nature, and heritage. We want to leave the homeland to our grandchildren as we received it.”

The issue in that region has been considered dormant since 2015, when the Defense Ministry told the High Court of Justice it did not plan to build the barrier in Gush Etzion at the time, but reserved the right to reconsider that decision.

Gideon Bromberg, Israeli co-director of EcoPeace Middle East, warned: “The Judean Desert area around Ein Gedi is a critical corridor for wildlife and there is a real concern here for the survival of the species there that are already under tremendous stress.”

The barrier is also slated to run through Battir, with its drip irrigation and 4,000-year-old terraces, inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in Danger.

In the last year, the Defense Ministry has worked on rebuilding 42 km. of the barrier in the South Hebron Hills, as it stretches along the Green Line. But it has not substantively worked on the 45-km. stretch from that barrier through Gush Etzion to Jerusalem. Nor has it worked on the 55 km. of barrier from the Dead Sea up to Yatir.

In 2006, the government voted for 790 km. of the barrier, of which some 470 have been constructed. In 2016, the Defense Ministry spoke of a 541- km. route that would not include the loops around the blocs of Gush Etzion, Ma’aleh Adumim or Ariel.

The wave of violence that began in 2015 has renewed focus on the barrier.

Since then, Netanyahu has vowed at least twice to complete the gaps in the structure.

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