Mofaz tours E1 area, Gush Etzion

Affirms that gov't will continue to strengthen large settlement blocks.

mofaz 298  (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
mofaz 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Construction of the security fence in the Gush Etzion and Ma'ale Adumim area should begin as soon as possible, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said while visiting the West Bank settlements Wednesday. Mofaz met with the heads of the settlements and following his visit affirmed that the government will continue to strengthen the large settlements blocks, according to the Defense Ministry spokeswoman. He added that it would be these settlements that determine the eastern front of the state of Israel. He also said that as soon as the plans were approved, building would begin in the E1 area, connecting Ma'ale Adumim to Jerusalem. Addressing concerns that the fence will be a future border, Mofaz explained that at the moment, the fence is purely for security purposes and is not a political barrier. Nonetheless, a statement released Wednesday by the Gush Etzion Regional Council warned of the possibility that the fence might eventually become a political separation, and demanded that settlements on both sides of the fence be treated equally. The council also said they continue to view the proposed route of the fence as a hindrance to the development of Gush Etzion, and maintained that it interferes with the contiguity of the settlements, endangers their security and hurts their relations with their Palestinian neighbors. Mofaz maintained that the IDF is the body responsible for the security of Gush Etzion, and only they have the authority to make decisions regarding the fence, though he said they will coordinate their efforts with the Gush Etzion Regional Council whenever possible. The heads of the Gush Etzion settlements said they are waiting to see how the decisions made today will be put into practice. Deputy Chief of Staff Moshe Kaplinsky, OC Central Command General Yair Naveh and Deputy Attorney General Etti Bendler accompanied Mofaz on his tour of the area.