'Cars are the problem' at checkpoints

Army may issue swipe cards to frequent Israeli, Palestinian drivers.

security fence 298 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
security fence 298 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
As long as Israel allows vehicular traffic in from the far side of the security fence, there is no way to fully prevent suicide bombings in the near future, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Bezalel Triber, the officer in charge of building the barrier's checkpoints, told The Jerusalem Post. Israel is spending some NIS 10 billion on the security fence and around NIS 1 billion more on 28 state-of-the-art crossings, but without stopping and thoroughly checking every car that passes between the West Bank and Israel - a technical challenge given the current amount of traffic - suicide bombers will still be able to exploit this weakness and potentially penetrate into the country, Triber warned. Most of the recent suicide bombers have infiltrated by car through one of the checkpoints, he noted. Triber had no firm number for the amount of cars which cross the fence and its projected route, saying only that hundreds of thousands of people pass on foot and in their vehicles on a daily basis. "At the end of the day, the cars are the problem," he said. In response, Marc Luria, a spokesman for Tafnit and a founding member of the now-defunct group Security Fence for Israel, said that logistical problem or not, every car coming into Israel from the West Bank should be stopped and inspected. "You've built these amazing crossing points, but then some of the bombers just drive through in their cars. It's totally ridiculous," he said. "It's fairly naive to think it would work to build a fence and not enforce the crossing points so that people actually need to get out of the cars. When you go to a mall in Jerusalem, they check your trunk and they check your person as well, and basically this whole country is like a mall. Once you pass through Kalandiya, or any of the other crossing points, you can go anywhere you want." Luria added that the fence should be treated as a border and the same processes should take place in the checkpoints "as if it were the border with Egypt." Triber's comments were part of a recent interview with the Post in which he outlined how both Israelis and Palestinians will be able to move between the West Bank and Israel as the security fence nears completion. With technological advances, more trained dogs and more manpower, the number of bombers making it through in cars could be cut down, Triber said, but "it will take a long time to stop it" altogether. In the near future, he said, the army may make it illegal for Israelis and Palestinians to ride in the same car through the checkpoints. That could cut down on some of the bombings, which were perpetrated when Israelis took bombers through whom they thought were simply people looking for work. Another idea being considered is issuing biometric cards to West Bank drivers who use the crossings on a regular basis, Triber said. The card could be swiped from around 100 meters away so soldiers or private security guards would know who is approaching and prepare accordingly. Whether cards would be issued to Israelis, in addition to the Palestinians who are already receiving them at Kalandiya and Erez, had not yet been discussed. "It's still just a notion," said Defense Ministry spokeswoman Rahel Naidek Ashkenazi. "It's too early to talk about who would get them." The Council of Settlers in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip spokeswoman Emily Amrusy said any plan to issue biometric cards to Israelis would be an unfair burden placed on approximately 80,000 Jews who live on what will be the far side of the fence. "Why should we act like we are guests here?" she said. "This is our land and we have to be able to move freely within it, not like we are negotiating with someone over it. If there are restrictions placed on free movement, it shouldn't be on us, it should be on the Palestinians."