Most of Israel's 76 square miles of minefields can be cleared within seven years, says Kadima MK Tzachi HaNegbi.
HaNegbi, chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, led a tour on Wednesday of Jordan Valley areas overlooking extensive minefields. He is the sponsor of a bill to establish a national authority for the clearing of minefields, which has been signed by 73 MKs thus far.
There are over 49,000 acres, or 76 square miles, of minefields in Israel. About 40% are in the Golan Heights, another 40% in the Aravah (eastern Negev), and most of the remainder in the Jordan Valley.
“Within seven years, those areas that are not needed for Israel’s security – such as along the Syrian border – can be cleared,” HaNegbi said, “and turned into flourishing tourism and agricultural areas.” He made the remarks after he and other MKs toured the Kasr al-Yahud (Castle of the Jews) area – the site traditionally held to be the place where the Children of Israel crossed over into the Land of Israel under the leadership of Joshua bin Nun. It is located south of the Allenby Bridge, 10 kilometers east of Jericho.
The visitors, including anti-land mine activist Jerry White, the founder of Survivor Corps, heard explanations of IDF officers in the area, including engineering corps personnel who explained the complexities of mine-clearing operations.
They were also briefed on the tremendous economic potential of the minefields, especially in Kasr al-Yahud, regarded as holy to Christians throughout the world. The MKs were impressed and inspired by the development on the Jordanian side of the river, following the clearing of all minefields there under King Hussein.
White, who lost a leg in a land mine explosion while he was touring the Golan some years ago, spoke of how the efforts to clear Israel’s land mines could be actualized. The goals of his organization’s Israeli campaign, "Mine-Free Israel," are to "make land safe and accessible, show that civil-military dialogue can enhance peace and security, initiate cross-border cooperation to clear mine fields, and promote a responsible legal policy regarding mines and other indiscriminate weapons."