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.