security fence 298.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman denounced as "ridiculous" on Wednesday a report that the Defense Ministry was weighing the possibility of shortening the route of the security fence in Samaria to exclude his West Bank city.
Nachman said the route had already been approved by the cabinet and, to the best of his knowledge, there were no plans to change it.
He attributed reports that that the ministry was considering revising the route as an attempt by Defense Minister Amir Peretz to gain votes for the Labor primary in May.
The Prime Minister's Office also said it did not know of any plan to change the route in that area.
The Defense Ministry said it had no response to the matter.
But Col. (res.) Shaul Arieli, a member of the Council for Peace and Security, told The Jerusalem Post that at the Defense Ministry's request, he had submitted a plan that would shorten the barrier's route through Samaria by some 100 kilometers, saving the state some NIS 1.1 billion.
He said his proposal would eliminate two finger-like shapes currently planned to jut out from the overall line of the fence to include the settlements of Ariel, Kedumim, and Emmanuel.
Under the revised plan, the fence's boundary would stay much closer to the pre-1967 border and would exclude those three communities, said Arieli, a known opponent of the current route.
Council members, many of whom are former military officers, are often called in as independent security experts when the High Court of Justice is petitioned against the fence. For this reason, Arieli surmised, the Defense Ministry turned to him when it sought outside advice.
The barrier's route in Samaria does not have US support, nor would it be approved by the High Court should a petition be brought against it, said Arieli, who also explained that the current route makes it difficult to establish contiguous territory for a Palestinian state.
In denouncing Arieli's plan, Ariel municipal spokesman Shai Peled accused Peretz of playing politics at the expense of the city's 19,000 residents' safety. Peled added that the government had already decided on the matter, and work had begun on a section of the fence near the city.
"It's the government's decision that determines the route, and not Peretz's political ambitions," he said.
"Ariel has existed for 29 years and the defense minister, whose days are numbered, cannot harm it," Peled said.