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October 4, 2015 / 21 Tishri, 5776
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Security Fence Construction Frozen, Preventing Cutting Off Gush Etzion from Israel – for now

"Once the fence is up, we'll be outside the state of Israel."
Gush Etzion Local Council Head Davidi Pearl (R) with Prime Minister Netanyahu, poring over the blueprints for the security fence.

Gush Etzion Local Council Head Davidi Pearl (R) with Prime Minister Netanyahu, poring over the blueprints for the security fence.

Pressure from residents of Gush Etzion and the settlers’ leadership over the past many months against the construction of a security fence around their territory has yielded results, apparently, as IDF Vice Chief of Staff Yair Naveh has announced this week that the completion of the Gush Etzion area security fence is being frozen, Makir Rishon reports.

In a letter received by local council head Davidi Pearl, General Naveh informs him that “continued work along the Gush Etzion track is being re-evaluated, and the matter is awaiting a decision by the political echelon. Until such a decision is reached, the work will not be renewed.”

The council head also received a personal, verbal confirmation from Central Command chief General Nitzan Alon.

“We realize that the fence is, in fact, a border. Once the fence is up, we’ll be outside the state of Israel,” Pearl said. “There 70,000 Jewish residents in Gush Etzion, and we’ll have next to us another 30,000 Palestinians; they would build here but we won’t be permitted to develop our settlements. We’ll be stuck. We want to see a contiguous flow between Gush Etzion and the state, and if we are included in the consensus, there’s no reason to build a fence to the west of us.”

Gush Etzion residents have let out a sigh of relief at this first gain in their fight against the fence which started several months ago, although, for the moment, this may only be a temporary reprieve.

In recent months, Gush Etzion residents have signed a petition against the fence construction, and council chief Pearl met with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss the issue, showed him the blueprints for the fence and asked him to prevent the project. During a tour of the area by Knesset Speraker Reuven Rivlin, he called for a reexamination of the plan to erext a fence in the area.

“We know that the prime minister elected, following his visit to Gush Etzion, to freeze the plan and reexamine it,” Pearl told Makor Rishon, “but we’re clear that the decree has not been removed for good, and that the matter will come up again in discussion. For now, we succeeded in freezing it. When a new government id in place we’ll bring the issue up once more for a discussion and will deal with it again.”

The reason for the objection to the fence on the part of local Jewish residents is that it cuts them off from the population inside the “green line,” which marks the border separating the IDF from the Jordanian Legion at the signing of the armistice agreement in 1949.

Constructed of the security fence started a decade ago, with a decision of the Ariel Sharon government to do all it could to stop entry of suicide bombers into Israel. Out of the planned 500 miles, less than 300 miles have been completed, about 60 percent of the original plan, at the cost so far of $2.7 billion. The work has been stopped some five years ago due to budgetary constraints.

Among the Jews of Judea and Samaria there is a common understanding that the plan of leaders in the Likud and in Labor and the other left of center Zionist parties is to eventually annex the “cluster of settlements” while abandoning everyone living east of the fence. Preventing being stuck on the wrong side of the fence is therefore crucial for the Jews of Gush Etzion.

Gush Etzion (Etzion Bloc) is a cluster of Israeli settlements in the Judaean mountains south of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The core group includes four villages that were founded in the 1940’s on land purchased in the 1920s ’30s, and destroyed by the Jordanian Legion in 1948. The area was left outside the 1949 armistice “green line.” Today’s Gush Etzion settlements were rebuilt after the 1967 Six-Day War, along with new communities that have expanded beyond the original Bloc.

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.

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9 Responses to “Security Fence Construction Frozen, Preventing Cutting Off Gush Etzion from Israel – for now”

  1. Lori Lowenthal Marcus says:

    Anyone who suggests Gush Etzion should be outside of the State of Israel should be ashamed to call him or herself pro-Israel. I would have used the word Zionist instead of pro-Israel, but so many lily-livered losers find the word too scary, and might be happy not to have that term applied to them. What a disgrace.

  2. Marty Mensch says:

    What are they thinking?

  3. Charlie Hall says:

    Why is the fence route excluding the Etzion region? It includes settlements much further from the Green Line.

    For that matter, why did the fence route exclude an Arab neighborhood in the "eternal, undivided capital" of Jerusalem?

    I don't understand this.

  4. H Fragman Abramson says:

    Of course there's an easy fix but Israel might get blamed for the Benghazi incident too…

  5. Stephen Leavitt says:

    There are at least 2 parts to the fence around Gush Etzion that are problematic. The first is the section near the Malcha mall, where the trees have already been cut down and it looks like a blight on the beautiful mountain landscape, the second is the area to the immediate east of Efrat, which cuts Gush Etzion in half, with Tekoa, Nokdim, Herodian etc on the east, and Efrat, Elazar,Kfar Etzion, etc on the west, with a fence between them.

  6. For those who think that Israel is in a fine place right now should read this and shudder. What irony when there is a large outflow of Jews from Israel to Germany.

    About Us The Hebrew Print Edition Areas of Distribution Vision History Advertising Contact Us


    One of the great surprises of the 21st century is the phenomenal growth of the Jewish population in Germany. From almost no Jews in 1945 the numbers have increased to well over 300,000, almost half of the population of 650,000 in the pre-war period.

    Most of the emigrants are Soviet Jews, many of whom migrated to Israel and from their to Germany

    But the decision by Soviet Jews to choose Germany over Israel has been cause for serious friction between the two countries. Israel lobbied hard – and ultimately successfully – to persuade Germany to end its generous immigration laws for Jews which encouraged hundreds of thousands to head to the reunited European state after the collapse of communism.

    Israel's concern is prompted in large part by the word "demographics", which has become a hot topic in the Holy Land. Israel may define itself as the Jewish state, but more than a million of its citizens are Arab Muslims. They have a higher birth rate than Jews, and many in Israel worry that their country's Jewish identity is being diluted. This has inspired headlines warning of a "demographic time bomb".

    For some Jews in Berlin, however, the demographic time bomb is only half of the reason that Israel, is so sensitive to a revitalised Jewish diaspora.
    The other factor, they say, is that with Jewish life flourishing, even where it was all but erased by the Holocaust, Zionism's very raison d'être is being challenged.

    More and more synagogues, as well as Jewish cafés, museums and schools are opening in Germany, and even in Poland. Amnon Seelig sings in the Munich synagogue choir every Shabbat.

    "Israel is in a really difficult position with immigration now, because people ask 'what is the role of Zionism today?'," said Rabbi Homolka. "The Jewish community in Berlin makes the argument that it is valid to stay here, in Germany."

    In fact for Jews in Germany such as Amnon Seelig, or Anita Zadig, whose family moved to Germany from Donetsk in what is now Ukraine, Israel has a very clear role. Both described it as a "safety net" – a place of refuge to which they could run if the horrors of European anti-Semitism emerge again.

    Otherwise, they say, they will stay away, in part put off by a life in Israel which even Rabbi Homolka concedes can be "so stressful". For Israel has come to define itself above all as a place of sanctuary for Jews, even in its most hostile neighbourhoods. From concrete walls advertised as anti-terror devices to secretive bombing missions on Syrian military facilities, its protective prowess is legendary.

    In 60 years, Israel's political leaders and military planners no doubt hope that peace will have broken out and that they won't have to conduct such missions. But you can bet that they won't let their guard down in the meantime.

    The fact that so many Jews have chosen to move to the home of the Holocaust instead of Israel seems to show that such inspirational, bloody-minded endurance comes at a high price.
    After all, even at the darkest moments, Amnon Seelig's grandparents knew that Israel should be about building more than just a bunker.

    Currently, Israel's economy is experiencing a very sharp down turn being very much dependent on a robust EU demand for imports. The European economic collapse has off course nullified the required demand. All of which explains the back up of close to 25, 000 Israelis requesting entry visas to Germany in 2012

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