JERUSALEM Ñ Israeli authorities have accelerated a project to
complete a 600-kilometer security fence and barrier along and inside the
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
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
"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
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
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