security fence 224.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The security barrier being built in the West Bank in an effort to prevent terror attacks continues to advance at a snail's pace, with barely a dozen additional kilometers completed in 2008, the Defense Ministry said.
Although the barrier is due to be finished in 2010, to date only some 500 kilometers of the planned 831-kilometer wall have been finished. Last year at this time, around 490 kilometers of wall had been built, according to Defense Ministry spokesman Shlomo Dror.
For those who live in the Jerusalem area, where the wall has yet to be completed, the work is clearly continuing. All told, according to Dror, crews are busy along 49 kilometers of the route.
Still, over the last two-and-a-half years, only some 50 kilometers have actually been finished.
Dror blamed the lack of progress on High Court of Justice rulings that have forced the Defense Ministry to change some 60 kilometers of the route.
An additional 100 kilometers are frozen because they are the subject of petitions still pending before the High Court, Dror said.
Money was also an issue, he added. In 2008, only NIS 1.05 billion was budgeted for the barrier, but much more was needed, Dror said. The budget for 2009 has yet to be passed, since deliberations on it were interrupted by the calling of early elections.
Some of the work done in the last year was on projects adjunct to the security barrier, rather than the barrier itself, including gates for the passage of people and access roads that are needed as a result of the structure, said Dror.
For example, he said, a new road was opened in the area of Ramallah that shortens travel time for Palestinians and makes it easier for them to access the city, he said.
In this last year, he said, the Defense Ministry has prioritized work on the barrier in the area of Jerusalem, which is particularly vulnerable to terror attacks, he said.
Outside of Jerusalem, work is needed on the barrier's route in the area of Ma'aleh Adumim, Gush Etzion, Ariel and the South Hebron Hills.
But despite the slow completion rate, Peace Now on Tuesday said the IDF has taken some dangerous shortcuts in the last few months as it maps out the remainder of the structure's route.
The group charged that the IDF had used the distraction provided by Operation Cast Lead in January to seize more Palestinian land for the security fence through a series of irregular orders.
Land was taken in the area of the Palestinian villages of Hussan, Jaba and Beit Surik, as well as near the settlements of Betar Illit and Gva'ot, according to the Peace Now report.
Dror denied the charge, and took particular issue with the charge that the IDF had exploited the war for other purposes.
"We do not need the cover of war" to take action to provide security for Israel, said Dror.
He added that during the IDF's 22-day military action in Gaza, the Defense Ministry was careful not to take steps that would provoke the Palestinians the West Bank.
The IDF follows legal procedure when it comes to the security barrier, said Dror, who noted that Palestinians who believe they will suffer damage from the fence route have the right to appeal.