Whatever happened to the Sinai border fence?

It is simply untenable that an urgent, authorized, budgeted project is going nowhere, and that Israel’s southern border remains inadequately protected.

Eyal Gabai, director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, informed the government last week that “as things stand,” he “cannot guarantee that the anti-infiltration barrier on the border with Sinai will be constructed as initially planned and completed by the original timetable.”
This is critically bad news in the most vital strategic sense.
Last January, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered the fence construction to block the increasing influx of illegals from Africa who reach Egypt and then make their way to the Israeli border. Work was to have started simultaneously at the northern and southern ends and continued in a two-pronged fashion till the segments connected.
The project was considered essential as illegals, mostly Muslim, from Eritrea, Sudan, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Chad, the Ivory Coast and elsewhere, are flocking toward Israel – the sub-Sahara’s veritable new Promised Land for the past five years. The exodus out of Africa has now been redirected to a new exit spout pouring into Israel.
Various human rights organizations, which despite all evidence to the contrary, persist in calling these economic migrants “Darfurian refugees,” oppose the construction. But, other than them, a near-consensus exists in its favor.
Nevertheless, 10 months on, there is no sign of a fence.
Not even one completed meter. Indeed, apart from negligible preliminary earth-moving in the Eilat sector, there is no sign whatever that any work has been commenced.
The problem isn’t financial. Sums were allocated via the Defense Ministry budget for the purpose. So what’s holding things up? Interministerial squabbles, to judge from a letter Gabai dispatched to the prime ministers and cabinet members. He accuses the Defense Ministry of using funds set aside for the barrier to bankroll the salaries of Israel Military Industries employees.
Gabai was charged by the cabinet last March with following up fence-construction progress and reporting back on it. The picture he now paints is one of unabashed lack of cooperation by the defense establishment, if not outright sabotage.
Gabai requested that the Defense Ministry file its recommendations for modifications in fence-location at various proposed tracts. The Defense Ministry instructed its representatives not to so much as attend meetings on the subject. The reply proffered to Gabai by Defense Ministry director-general Ehud Shani was that his ministry won’t submit plans for the approval of outside forums and, if the government insists, the ministry won’t carry out the project.
Wagging political tongues allege that Defense Minister Ehud Barak is antagonistic to the project for the simple reason that “it’s not his baby.”
We frankly don’t care about the blame-game. The bottom line is that this project is too important to be disrupted by ministerial pettiness and petulance. The excuses are irrelevant. If the Defense Ministry won’t play along, for whatever reason, the project should be taken out of its jurisdiction.
The prime minister, who initiated the project, has to assume ultimate responsibility. If necessary, the budgets and operational auspices should be transferred to his office. In the end the buck stops with him in any case. Hence it serves him not to be at the mercy of bickering officials.
This is much too urgent an issue. Besides the exponentially magnifying demographic dangers to the Jewish state, the uncontrolled border beckons human-traffickers, drug-smugglers and gunrunners aiding and abetting terror masterminds from Hamas to al-Qaida.
In a recent appeal, Eilat’s mayor warned that his city is “losing its identity. Thousands of Africans swamp us and more stream in daily. Every sixth Eilati is now an illegal African... Eilat is only the sign of things to come. These illegals constitute the single greatest threat to Israel’s future as a Jewish state.”
This country’s archives are overflowing with unimplemented blueprints. Important, much-hyped plans – like Tel Aviv’s subway and light rail systems – gather dust. But the Sinai barrier is more vital than projects that impact our economy and quality of life. It is simply untenable that an urgent, authorized, budgeted project is going nowhere, and that Israel’s southern border remains inadequately protected in the face of a relentless illegal influx.