Security fence in Mt. Hebron and Gush Etzion? No thanks, say residents

Critics of the just-granted approval for the project say it would cut off access to the center of the country and cause environmental damage.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Residents of Judea and Samaria are pushing back at the recently granted government approval to complete the security fence in the Gush Etzion and Mt. Hebron areas, saying it would cause greater harm than good, Israel Hayom reported Monday.

“Instead of properly strengthening the line of settlements in eastern Mount Hebron and enforcing the law regarding the many construction violations in the area, and thus control the access roads to the Judean Desert, the Israeli government chose to build a fence that will be lamented for generations,” said Ari Odes, who is running to lead the Mount Hebron Regional Council.

Odes said that such a fence would “damage Jewish settlement” in the region as well as “cause enormous destruction of the nature and hiking areas of the desert streams,” while smugglers and infiltrators would find a way around or through the barrier “within just a few years.”

This is what has happened in Samaria, where the IDF has augmented its forces by several divisions for over a year in order to patrol the security barrier that was built over a decade ago, starting in 2002. A conscious decision had been made in 2017 to stop the constant repairs necessary for its upkeep, and it has become surprisingly easy for terrorists and illegal workers to cross, whether by going over, under, or cutting holes through it.

Only in April 2022, after a wave of terror attacks that claimed the lives of a dozen Israeli civilians, did the government authorize major repairs and extensions of the barrier. But the residents of Gush Etzion and Mt. Hebron, based on IDF data, have pointed out that fully 80% of the terrorists come rom northern Samaria, so a security fence is much more necessary there than in their much quieter region, where historically there has been no barrier.

Locals from Gush Etzion have been fighting nascent IDF plans to extend the barrier in their area for 18 years.

“The fence will cut off Gush Etzion from Jerusalem… exactly 56 years after Gush Etzion was liberated,” struggle leader Yaron Rosenthal told Israel Hayom in a separate interview in May.

The Society for the Protection of Nature is on the residents’ side. The group charged that no environmental impact study had been carried out and that the fence, especially in the area of Tzur Hadassah and the Sansan nature reserve, would “almost completely destroy the ecological function of the space as part of the national ecological corridor.”

The IDF denied that Gush Etzion would be cut off by its work, insisting that ecological concerns would be taken into full account and that they would cooperate with professionals in the field in order to ensure free passage for the area’s wildlife.

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The money for the multi-million dollar project has yet to be budgeted.