Knesset Vote: Leaving Gush Etzion 'Outside'?

Security barrier path splitting Judea region up for vote; local leaders slam 2006 proposal as disconnected from reality.

Ido Ben-Porat, Ari Yashar,

Construction of Gush Etzion barrier (file)
Construction of Gush Etzion barrier (file)
Flash 90

Knesset ministers are to hold a vote on Sunday to set the path of the security barrier in the Gush Etzion region of Judea, located just south of Jerusalem, according to reports on Galei Tzahal (IDF Radio) on Thursday.

The barrier's path was approved in 2006, and after petitions to the Supreme Court it was altered so that the majority of the fence would be located on the side of the 1949 Armistice lines currently under Israeli sovereignty.

According to the report, the path of the barrier that is coming up for a vote would leave Gush Etzion outside of the fence - or in other words, not part of the contiguous territory surrounded by the security border of "Israel proper."

The proposal is infuriating Gush Etzion residents who have so far successfully opposed such plans for many long years, saying it would split their communities, and noting that even proposed peace agreements have designated their area for Israeli sovereignty.

It remains unclear why Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon decided to raise the topic for a vote precisely at this juncture in time; many ministers are expected to strongly oppose the proposal.

Some ministers have said the declaration late last month of 4,000 dunams (988 acres) as state land in Gush Etzion was intended as a form of "compensation" for constructing the contested security barrier.

Gush Etzion Regional Council chair Davidi Perl responded to the decision to hold a vote, telling Galei Tzahal Thursday that "the prime minister promised that the topic would be frozen and would not advance. We will do all that is possible so that the barrier is not built."

Ironically, "freezing" in the region has come up in a different context as of late, namely in Netanyahu's "covert" construction freeze that has brought Judea and Samaria building to a standstill for many long months despite Israel's housing crisis.

While some have claimed the security barrier prevents terrorists from entering Israel, critics argue the reduction in terrorism in recent years has been due to the IDF redeploying to areas in Judea and Samaria it had abandoned in the wake of the 1993 Oslo Accords.

Indeed, video evidence in July during the IDF operation to search for three abducted Israeli teens later found to have been murdered showed Arab residents of Judea continuing to breach the security barrier.

Oded Ravivi, mayor of the Gush Etzion city of Efrat, responded to the new vote on Thursday, saying "the topic is an old government decision from 2006. Eight years on and the reality on the ground, in the south and also in Judea and Samaria, teaches us that the barrier doesn't bring security."

According to the Efrat mayor, "the best example (that the barrier doesn't bring security) is the city of Efrat, which isn't surrounded by the barrier."

"What brings true security to residents is the balance of interests and the deterrence created locally," emphasized Ravivi.

"The Israeli government needs to announce to the Supreme Court that, in light of changing priorities, the resources must be redirected to other security needs."




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