TEL AVIV Ñ Israel's Defense Ministry has determined a new price tag
for the estimated 600-kilometer security fence along the West Bank -- $1.66
A Defense Ministry official, Moshe Lippel, told the Knesset Economic
Committee that the security barrier and fence system to prevent insurgency
infiltration from the West Bank would cost 7.5 billion shekels. Lippel said
the ministry estimates that the project will be completed in 2006 and the
Knesset would have to allocate the cost of the fence over the next two
The first two phases of the project were reported at 2 billion shekels.
This covers the construction of the barrier from Gilboa to the area of
Lippel said the new projected cost of the security fence would not
include maintenance. The official said this would cost several million
dollars per year.
The Defense Ministry official on Wednesday relayed a significantly
higher cost for the security fence than previous assessments. As late as
September, the ministry had assessed the security fence at 3.5 billion
The new price took into account a government decision on the route of
the fence. The security barrier will move from Salem in the north, along the
West Bank to Kalkilya and then move about 15 kilometers into the West Bank
to encircle Israeli communities.
The government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has also expressed its
intention to build a separate fence to protect Israeli communities in the
Jordan Valley. But the Defense Ministry assessment of the cost of the
project did not take this into account.
Several parliamentarians on the committee said they would oppose
allocating funds to complete the project. They said the cost of the fence
was affected by the government decision to encircle the Israeli city of
Ariel and surrounding communities. The government has been mulling a
proposal to issue a special tax to pay for the project.
Other parliamentarians complained that the government remains ambiguous
over details of the security fence project. This includes a refusal to relay
details of expenditures required for the fence.
The United States opposes the security fence project, particularly the
penetration into the West Bank. The Bush administration has warned that it
will deduct an undetermined percentage of the project from the $9 billion in
U.S. loan guarantees approved earlier this year. The White House was also
said to have increased pressure on Israel to stop construction of homes in
Israeli communities in the West Bank.