What’s stopping Israel from completing the separation barrier?

The Separation Barrier, the construction of which began in 2002, is one of several contributing factors to the fall in terror attacks committed against Israelis since the second Intifada. There is no doubt that the presence of the barrier serves as a partial deterrent, alongside the very close security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Sixteen years since works on the barrier began, only 60% of the route has been completed. The large gaps in the barrier are regularly used by Palestinians to enter into Israel without permits in order to work, but also by some to smuggle weapons. If someone wishes to commit a terror attack against Israelis, the barrier can easily be penetrated, given it is not complete.

Some critics of the barrier argue that its underlying purpose is not security but rather territorial: to annex as much land as possible to Israel which includes the fewest possible number of Palestinian residents. The barrier’s existence, they argue, will make it even more difficult for the two sides to ever reach an agreement.

Indeed, the barrier has not been built along the Green Line, but instead accommodates 80% of Israeli West Bank settlements, in order that they can remain on the ‘Israeli’ side of the barrier. 15% of the barrier’s route coincides with the Green Line, while the other 85% cuts into Palestinian areas. As a consequence, the barrier is over 700km long, double the length of the 320km long Green Line, making it a much harder border to defend. Excluding those living in east Jerusalem, 11,000 Palestinians are living in communities that are in the West Bank, caught between the Green Line and the Separation Barrier.

We are told that those who raise concerns about the barrier and its route, do not care about Israel’s security and the lives of Israelis. Yet last week, the Israeli Knesset voted down for the third time a proposed bill by opposition lawmaker and former commando of the elite legendary unit ‘Sayerat Matkal’, Omer Bar Lev MK, mandating completion of the Separation Barrier. Opposition to the bill was led by the three main coalition parties: Likud, HaBayit HaYehudi (The Jewish Home) and Yisrael Beitenu.

The reason for opposition to the completion of the barrier by these three parties is a concern that the Separation Barrier would constitute an official endorsement of a future border between Israel and a Palestinian state and promotes the idea of “separation” between Israel and the rest of the West Bank, cutting off access to current and potential future settlements in the West Bank.

It is the political calculations of the settler movement, as opposed to security concerns, that resulted in this bill being voted down in the Knesset, proving again, that it is ideology that often drives decisions that are purported to be carried out in the name of security.

Any supporter of Israel who wants the country to have a safe and secure future must ask themselves who will pay the price for these political games?

About the Author
Maya Ilany is the deputy director of Yachad, an organisation that exists to build support in the Anglo-Jewish community for a political resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
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