Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) tours Israel's southern border with Jordan, February 9, 2016.
(photo credit: KOBI GIDON / GPO)
Israel needs to erect a fence around the entire country to protect itself from “beasts” in the neighborhood, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday on a tour near Eilat of a segment of fence being erected along the Jordanian border.
“We are preparing a multiyear project to encircle Israel with a security fence, to defend ourselves in the Middle East as it is now, and as it is expected to be,” he said.
“They will say to me, what do you want to do, protect the mansion? And the answer is, ‘Yes.’ What, we will encircle the whole country with a fence and obstacles? The answer is an unequivocal, ‘Yes,’” he said.
“In the neighborhood in which we live we need to protect ourselves against beasts,” Netanyahu added.
The prime minister said that a plan was also being drawn up to fill in the gaps in the security fence in Judea and Samaria.
Government officials said details about completing the West Bank fence were still being worked out. Despite a master plan for a barrier around the large settlement blocs of Ma’aleh Adumim, Ariel and Gush Etzion, only a small section of these routes has been built. Netanyahu’s comments on Tuesday did not seem to signal that a final decision had been made.
Last month opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) called for completing the fence around the settlement blocs to both protect the settlements and send a message to the Palestinians that Israel would keep these enclaves under its control.
Netanyahu said that surrounding Israel with a security fence will cost billions of shekels, and the project would take a number of years.
Asked what Israel would do if tunnels were burrowed beneath the fence, he replied, “We are doing other things, that I will not describe here.”
Netanyahu said that the advantage of putting up a barrier along the Jordanian border, in addition to that which has been built along the Egyptian border, was that there were no buildings nearby which could be used to camouflage the construction of tunnel shafts.
“That is not the situation in Gaza, or potentially in Judea and Samaria,” he said.
“If you weigh whether to build a fence there you have to take into consideration that they could dig tunnels underneath. Those who said that there is no significance to territory in the modern era, should go to [look at the situation in] Gaza.”
Every few months Netanyahu takes a tour of the fence under construction, and on Tuesday he helicoptered south to see work on a 30 kilometer stretch that begins in Eilat and works its way northward in the Arava. The price of this segment, also designed to protect the airport under construction at Timna, is NIS 288 million. Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen.
Gadi Eisenkot, OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir, and Brig. Gen. Eran Ofir, head of the Security Fence Branch in the defense ministry, gave Netanyahu a progress report. Netanyahu was also accompanied by Transportation Minister Israel Katz.
In recent years, Israel has completed a 242 km. long fence from Kerem Shalom to Eilat along the Egyptian border that includes a five-meter tall fence, a thin strip that enables IDF trackers to identify footprints and a patrol route. In addition, another 103 km. fence has been built on the Golan Heights and some 500 kms. of fence has been erected in Judea and Samaria.