Chris Lieberman, FISM News
Israel’s security cabinet has approved 360 million New Israeli Shekels (NIS; $112 million) in funding to repair a 40 kilometer (25 mile) stretch of its West Bank security barrier, the Prime Minister’s office announced on Sunday.
The project aims to upgrade the barrier between Salem in the northern West Bank and the Bat Hefer region.
“The barrier will be comprised of concrete, protective equipment, and additional technological components,” a statement from the Defense Ministry reads. “It will be up to 9 meters (29.5 feet) high and will replace the fence that was built about 20 years ago.”
The ministry added that they plan to begin construction as soon as possible.
The announcement comes in response to terrorist attacks in Bnei Brak and Tel Aviv, which killed a total of eight Israelis. Israeli security officials suspect that both shooters entered through a gap in the current barrier. These shootings are just the latest in a surge of violence in recent weeks that has raised tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.
After Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted, “We will fight terror with all the tools available to us and we will win.”
Former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin first proposed the West Bank security barrier in the 1990s, but the project lacked the internal support to proceed. However, the idea found new life during the Second Intifada, a Palestinian uprising that claimed thousands of lives from 2000-2005. To date, despite NIS 9 billion ($2.8 billion) in spending, only 62% of the planned 708 kilometer (440 mile) barrier has been completed, according to The Times of Israel.
The barrier consists primarily of chain-link fences with cameras and other surveillance equipment. In urban areas, it transitions to a 26- to 30-foot concrete wall. However, much of the barrier has fallen into disrepair due to lack of maintenance, and Israel has not committed the necessary resources to maintaining the surveillance system.
As a result, Palestinians are able to climb over the concrete portions and cut through the wire fence in order to enter Israel illegally. Some analysts believe that this is intentional on the part of Israel in order to prevent Palestinians from facing economic hardship that could lead to them becoming terrorists.
Many in the international community have condemned the barrier, which runs through the West Bank, a disputed region viewed by many as part of Palestine. However, this latest project is receiving opposition from the political right within Israeli, who accuse Bennett of legitimizing the Palestinian state through the construction of the barrier. “This is not a security fence, this is a border wall,” said Israeli lawmaker Orit Struck, a member of the Religious Zionist Party (RZP).
Labor Party Secretary-General Eran Hermoni responded to Struck and the RZP, saying, “The RZP’s opposition to the security wall proved that it prefers to abandon Israel’s security with Israel for the golden calf of politically isolated settlements. The cabinet’s decision to rebuild the security wall is an important step in the war on terrorism, and one that millions of Israelis are begging for.”