PM 'satisfied' with Egypt border fence progress

Sinai border fence half finished, will be 94% completed by October; Talk turns to building similar barrier on Golan, Jordanian border

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on southern border 370 (photo credit: HERB KEINON)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on southern border 370
(photo credit: HERB KEINON)
Israel will encircle its land borders with physical barriers that give it the ability to control its boundaries, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday on a tour of the 4.7- meter-tall, 242-kilometer-long fence going up along the Egyptian border.
Netanyahu flew by helicopter to the border with Sinai, as he has done at six-month intervals over the past three years, to look at the progress on building the barrier that will extend from Kerem Shalom near the Gaza Strip to Eilat on the Red Sea.
The prime minister, looking at a stretch of the fence located along the border not far from Mitzpe Ramon, expressed satisfaction with the pace of the work, which is scheduled to be completed by early next year.
“A small country like ours cannot have porous borders.
We cannot allow free access through our borders,” he said.
“Therefore we will encircle Israel with physical barriers that give us the ability – along with other means – to control our borders. We will finish that job.”
Netanyahu has spoken in the past about building a similar barrier along the Jordanian border.
Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.- Gen Yair Naveh, who accompanied the prime minister on the tour, said that following completion of the barrier on the southwestern border, work would begin on rebuilding the fence on the Golan Heights.
The fence on the Golan border needed to be rebuilt because of the changes taking place inside Syria, Naveh indicated.
“The challenges along the borders are changing as a function of the changes around us,” he said.
Naveh said the IDF action earlier this month against Zuhair Qaisi, the head of the Popular Resistance Committees in the Gaza Strip, was taken because a cell he headed planned an attack near where Netanyahu visited on Tuesday.
Qaisi’s killing sparked a week of violence in the South.
Sinai had changed dramatically in the past year, and was now a “no-man’s-land, a wild area of smuggling and terrorist activity,” Naveh said.
The prime minister said that the fence did three things: it barred entrance of illegal workers, stopped smugglers, and was a barrier to terrorists.
So far 104 kilometers of the fence along the Egyptian border have been completely built, reinforced with razor barbed wire, and augmented by patrol roads and intelligence collecting devices that Netanyahu characterized as “impressive and effective.”
Netanyahu, who on the helicopter ride to the fence was reading Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz’s The Essential Talmud, said the fence answered one of Israel’s four main challenges, which he identified as the nuclear threat, the missile threat, the cyber threat and the border threat.
The prime minister said that controlling the borders was a key to the country’s future, and that without an effective border Israel would be flooded within a decade with “hundreds of thousands” of infiltrators looking for work who would alter the character of the state.
Brig.-Gen. Eran Ofir, who heads the project, said that 200 kilometers of the fence would be completed by August, and 227 kilometers by October.
The remaining 15 kilometers (6 percent) surrounding Eilat – which will be built on very difficult topography – is to be completed by next March.
According to numbers given to Netanyahu, some 1,250 people – working for 30 contractors – are building the barrier at the pace of about 20 kilometers a month. Some 480 trucks are being used, and the amount of earth that has been removed for the project could fill 1 million semi-trailer trucks.