Israel reaches 'arrangement' with U.S., speeds fence project

Monday, December 1, 2003

JERUSALEM Israeli authorities have accelerated a project to complete a 600-kilometer security fence and barrier along and inside the West Bank.

Israeli officials said the project was speeded up over the last week in wake of an understanding with the United States over the route of the fence as well as the deduction from the $9 billion in U.S. loan guarantees to Israel.

Officials said that the project has reduced Palestinian suicide operations against Israel. They said that since June there has been only one infiltration of the security fence barrier.

Most of the suicide bombers entered Israeli from the West Bank cities of Jenin, Kalkilya and Tulkarm, Middle East Newsline reported.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has assured the United States that the security fence will not comprise a border between Israel and the Palestinians, officials said. They said the fence Israel built along the border with Lebanon was moved five times in coordination with the United Nations.

"The delay was part of the dispute with the United States," Deputy Defense Minister Ze'ev Boim said. "Since then, there has been an arrangement with the United States and the project has been speeded up."

[On Monday, the London-based Al Hayat daily reported that President George Bush plans to present a new U.S. peace plan for the Middle East that would be implemented by NATO. The plan, presented last month during Bush's trip to Britain, was described as a roadmap for the Middle East to turn into a region of democracy in an approach that resembled the Helsinki accords with the Soviet Union in the 1980s.]

The officials said a 150-kilometer stretch of the fence has already been completed.

After a delay of several months, Israeli authorities have launched the second stage of the security project, officials said. This includes a stretch of nearly 100 kilometers from the Israeli community of Elkana to Jerusalem.

In June 2003, the first stage of the fence was completed. This marked the stretch between Kfar Salim in the north to the Israeli community of Elkana in the West Bank.

But officials do not expect the security fence to be completed in 2004. On Monday, four Knesset bills that would have forced the government to complete the project in 2004 was suspended for at least 45 days. Officials said this will mean that the legislation would not be able to include required funds to complete the security fence in the budget for fiscal 200

Print this Article Print this Article Email this article Email this article Subscribe to this Feature Free Headline Alerts
Search Worldwide Web Search Search WorldTrib Archives

See current edition of

Return to World Front Cover