Gush Etzion junction has been known as one of the hottest terror focal points in Israel. In recent months it attracted a worrying number of terrorist attacks, including an attack last Thursday and Sunday’s stabbing attack which killed Hadar Buchris, 21. But despite anxious calls from Jewish residents of the area, security forces reject outright the proposal to separate Jews and Palestinians who go through the intersection. Currently, the only realistic possibility being looked into is installing security sleeves on both sides of the road, Channel 10 News reported.
These sleeves, the IDF is hoping, will serve as a vital checkpoint, forming a buffer between individuals—i.e. Arabs—reaching in the intersection and the Israeli hitchhikers looking for a ride. The IDF expects the buffer to be a lifesaver in the event that a terrorist would try to harm passers by at point-blank range.
The Gush Etzion intersection is unique in the fact that it sits on Route 60, connecting Hebron and Jerusalem, which also runs outside Bethlehem. Unlike other intersections in Judea and Samaria, there are several pedestrian-accessible features a few yards away: a supermarket employing Arabs, and a restaurant. This mix of pedestrians and motorists is an invitation for deadly outcomes at a time of terrorist attacks on Jewish civilians.
The IDF is obviously concerned about being blamed for an apartheid policy, which is why it rejects officially segregating the Arabs and the Jews at the intersection. But it’s hard to envision how the sleeves would prevent Arabs with guns or firebombs from slowing down and hurting Jewish pedestrians, or ramming into them.
The sleeves are in use outside Bethlehem, where there have been complaints about the fact that hundreds of Arab civilians must endure standing in them for hours. It may turn out that, as is the case whenever the authorities are too cowardly to do what is needed, the sleeves will cause more harm than good at Gush Etzion Junction.