Security Fence Out of Funds
Something that will make a lot of Palestinians happy, as well as left wing supporters, was an announcement by the Defense Ministry that the security fence project is running out of funds. Asst. Defense Minister and Knesset member Matan Vilnai noted that there is only about half a billion New Shekels available in the Defense Budget’s funds allotment to continue work on the project which began in earnest following the outbreak of the Second Intifada uprising in September, 2000. The fence, actually a concrete wall in most places where it has been erected, has given some security to populated areas such as neighborhoods in Jerusalem and communities and settlements located adjacent to Palestinian cities like Kal kiliya and Tulkarem.

The barrier, which has literally run through lands belonging to Palestinian farmers, and has caused many Palestinians to go long distances to circumvent it, including those needing medical care, and has become a symbol of separation between the Palestinians and Israelis. It also became a symbol when David Gilmour’s Pink Floyd band played a special concert on lands adjacent to “The Wall”. Gilmour himself wrote a special message on a barrier section against “The Occupation” and the separation which has been called an act of apartheid by international personalities such as former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

Many Israelis, however, believe that the barrier has prevented many terror attacks, and that fewer have occurred during the past two years may testify to this fact. Many critical security areas have yet to be included within this barrier, including Bethlehem (near the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo), south of Mt. Hebron, the Ariel projection, and many more. Most of the sections in the area in what is known as the Judean section of the West Bank remain to be completed. The entire area to be enclosed by the barrier is shown in red on the included map.

“Until now, the government has invested more than six billion New Shekels ($ 1.25 Billion) on the barrier; but stopping the project now would be like throwing this amount in the trash” a senior security ministry official remarked. The official believes that the government “has gotten cold feet regarding completing the project”.

The budgetary problem has literally put a halt to the project’s construction plans for the entire 2008 fiscal year. The planned government budget for 2008 is in the neighborhood of N.S. 1.3 Billion; but with overall Defense Ministry budget cutbacks along with overall government budget restructuring, at least N.S. 500 Million has still not been given by the government to complete the 2007 construction plan. This means that at lest N.S. 1.8 – 2 Billion will be needed to finish the present construction and including the section planned for 2008.

Does this mean that the entire project has turned into a massive “white elephant”? The length of the still to be competed section of the barrier in 790 kilometers, with only 450 km being so far completed. About 80 km is only partially completed, with another 260 km either still being considered or in disputed areas where various legal in junctions have been filed by both Palestinians and “anti-fence” activists in Israeli courts. Some very critical security areas in the Jerusalem section were recently completed; but other parts have yet to be completed. These sections in particular are ones so often shown on various foreign news medias such as CNN. Despite literally hundreds of thousands of New Shekels spent on making barrier sections, guard posts, and other items for still yet to be constructed areas, the Defense Ministry has issued overall orders to halt further construction until the financial issue is settled – one way or the other.