Settler leader threatens court action over defunct security barrier

The current barrier designed to keep out terrorists is dysfunctional, and people are able to get through it with great ease.

 Yossi Dagan and Alon Schuster stand by a breach in the security barrier in the West Bank. (photo credit: SAMARIA REGIONAL COUNCIL)
Yossi Dagan and Alon Schuster stand by a breach in the security barrier in the West Bank.
(photo credit: SAMARIA REGIONAL COUNCIL)

Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan has threatened to petition the High Court of Justice to force the IDF to repair and fully activate the defunct security West Bank barrier designed to prevent terror attacks.

“The security barrier has become a joke and Israeli citizens are paying the price,” Dagan said.

Attorney Arye Arbus wrote a warning letter on his behalf to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Deputy Defense Minister Alon Schuster and Maj.-Gen. Yehuda Fuchs.

“Effectively there is no barrier,” because the disrepair is so extensive, attorney Arbus wrote last week and his letter was given to the media this week.

Dagan has renewed his campaign to force the IDF to repair the barrier after a Palestinian gunman from the area of Jenin entered sovereign Israel through a gap in the security barrier and killed five people in Bnei Brak on March 29.

 Israeli police officers and rescue forces are seen at the scene of a shooting attack in Bnei Brak, March 29, 2022. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90) Israeli police officers and rescue forces are seen at the scene of a shooting attack in Bnei Brak, March 29, 2022. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

“The Bnei Brak attack could have been prevented,” Dagan said.

Work on the barrier first began in 2002 during the height of the Second Intifada. Initially designed to run for some 364 km. along the pre-1967 lines in the West Bank, it was significantly extended to include many of the West Bank settlements. In its most expansive form, the route was to cover some 810 km.

The Second Lebanon War with Hezbollah in 2006 followed by the first Gaza war in the winter of 2008-2009 caused the IDF to reassess its priorities in light of missile and rocket threats.

Bennett underscored that point on Tuesday when he told reporters, “Fences alone are not enough.”Already by 2007, construction on the barrier was largely frozen. The part of the completed route was not extended further and most of the work that occurred on it plugged in holes in the already existing construction or shored up the functioning work.

By 2007, some 450 km. of the barrier had been built. At present, according to the Defense Ministry, some 470 km. of the barrier have been completed and the route has been significantly shortened so that it is now estimated to run along some 525 km. The unbuilt areas are largely in Gush Etzion, where settlers do not want a barrier and in the South Hebron Hills where there are environmental issues.

In addition, neither sufficient repair work nor the needed IDF monitoring activity to ensure that the barrier was operating effectively took place.

As a result, thousands of Palestinians easily cross through gaps in the barrier, of which large sections are wire-based fences. Palestinians also easily climb over the concrete slabs in areas where the barrier is a wall.

The problems are particularly acute in the Samaria area of the West Bank. The IDF said it is currently considering a plan to close the gaps but the Samaria Regional Council said it would only be satisfied once a formal decision to do so had been taken.

Dagan has in the past brought security officials to the barrier, including a tour three months ago in which he explained the problem to Schuster.

Last Thursday, State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman toured the barrier and spoke of the project as a failed endeavor, explaining that his office has been investigating the issue for the last months.

“We are talking about a significant failure here,” Englman said.

“More than NIS 8 billion was invested in the project and just over NIS 5b. in the fence itself. In addition, the State of Israel invests NIS 140 million a year for day-to-day maintenance and activities in the area,” he said.

Despite this, he said, gaps exist that allow thousands of Palestinians to cross, including with vehicles.

“This is how a terrorist can get from Jenin to Bnei Brak in an hour with great ease,” Englman said.