A security barrier between the occupied territories and Israel proper was proposed in 1992 by Yitzhak Rabin. Following an outbreak of violence in the Gaza Strip in 1994, the Rabin government constructed a barrier along the 1949 armistice line, effectively walling off the Palestinian area. In that same year, attacks on the Israeli coastal town of Netanya, north of Tel Aviv, caused Rabin to call for a similar barrier around the West Bank.
In 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak committed to construct a barrier as part of the plan for the establishment of a Palestinian state. However, it was not until the wave of attacks by suicide bombers originating in the West Bank in 2002 that the government of Ariel Sharon began building the barrier.
There have been numerous complaints and court challenges to the route of the fence (see map - right). Palestinians claim that the fence does not adhere to the 1949 armistice line/1967 borders, but rather is an attempt to seize Palestinian territory. There is some validity to this claim, and Israeli courts have upheld some of the legal challenges. The basis of the claims is that the barrier juts into the West Bank, what most consider Palestinian areas, to include Israeli settlements located on the West Bank (see photo - left). It's a hard argument to refute.
I just returned from a trip to Israel, which included a briefing on the barrier, a trip to the fence as well as a helicopter tour over the fence (I took the photos on this page). The barrier is about 95 percent fence and five percent wall. Concrete wall sections, about 25 feet high, are used in city areas (including Jerusalem) or in areas where Palestinian areas are close to Israeli areas. The entire system is designed to be, where possible, three fences - stacks of barbed wire for the two outer fences and a lighter-weight fence with intrusion detection equipment and cameras in the middle. Patrol roads are provided on both sides of the middle fence, an anti-vehicle ditch is provided on the West Bank side of the fence, and a smooth dirt strip on the Israeli side for tracking is provided (see photo - right). When completed, the barrier will include more than 400 miles.
According to Israeli officials, the barrier has been extremely effective, reducing terrorist incidents by 90 percent from 2002 to 2005. Read the official Israeli information on the fence at the IDF Security Fence website.
November 12, 2006