JERUSALEM ø Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has ordered changes
in the route of the security fence and barrier along and through the West
Israeli officials said Sharon plans to appoint a panel to review the
route of the fence and recommend changes that would avoid legal problems in
the Israeli High Court and the International Court of Justice in the Hague.
Officials said Sharon intends to maintain the fence largely along, rather
in, the West Bank.
The changes were urged by Justice Minister Yosef Lapid and State
Prosecutor Edna Arbel ahead of a High Court hearing on the fence on Tuesday.
Sharon's decision to revise the route of the fence has been opposed by
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz.
"We must not keep the fence along the 1967 border because this would
mean that we have given up the idea of security buffer areas," Yuval
Steinitz, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee,
said. "This would be a political concession."
Officials said Sharon would convene a military committee as early as
Tuesday to propose revisions of the security fence. They said Sharon has
rejected appeals from several advisers and ministers to ignore the hearing
by the international court.
Last year, the Sharon government approved a $1.9 billion project for a
730-kilometer security fence and barrier that would encompass at least two
blocs of Israeli communities in the West Bank. One proposal submitted to
Sharon was for the government to reduce the length of the fence to 500
kilometers and limit the project to along the old 1967 border with Jordan.
The first phase of the project has been completed, officials said. They
said that this phase ø which runs north from Kfar Salem to near the Israeli
city of Rosh HaAyin ø has remained along the 1967 border.
During a hearing of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on
Monday, Sharon said Jordan was leading the international campaign to
prosecute Israel for the security fence. The prime minister, in a rare
warning to the neighboring kingdom, said Jordan would have a lot to lose in
any confrontation with Israel. Sharon did not elaborate.