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Sunday, 16 June, 2002, 12:21 GMT 13:21 UK
Israeli security fence sparks anger
Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint in the West Bank
Critics say Israelis' security won't be improved

Settlers' groups and Arab Israelis have spoken out against a security fence to separate Israel from the West Bank even as construction of the barrier began.

However, the plan seemed to have the backing of most Israelis - although some complained that it would not benefit them quickly enough.

Championing the settlers' cause was Cabinet minister Yitzhak Levy of the National Religious Party.

Israel radio reported that his demand to halt the construction was taken up by the cabinet, which agreed that it should be considered by the security cabinet on Wednesday.


The fence is designed to demarcate a political border rather than achieve security

Yesha Settlement Council

In the meantime, work is set to continue.

A report on the website of the Yediot Aharonot newspaper quoted the Yesha Settlement Council as saying that "the fence is designed to demarcate a political border rather than achieve security" - a complaint echoed by many Arabs in and out of Israel.

Ha'aretz newspaper reported that opposition was especially strong among Arabs living near the Green Line between Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

The Supreme Monitoring Committee for Arab Affairs in Israel said the fence's chief aim was to "fortify Israel's conquest and sovereignty in the occupied territories".

It called the barrier "an attempt to impose a reality of conquest on the Palestinian people".

The committee also worried that the fence would run through Arab towns and villages, leading to the possible expropriation of land from Arab owners.

Plan 'flawed'

Israelis in the Gilboa Hills region near Jenin had a different complaint.

According to Yediot Aharonot, local leader Dani Atar called the planning "flawed", and noted that it would not reach their stretch of border.

"It simply leaves the residents of the Gilboa and Valleys district wide open to terrorist attacks," he said. "I hope the fence will reach the Gilboa area."

Many Israelis might agree, with opinion polls suggesting at least 80 per cent are in favour of the fence.

One Israeli politician has even been leading tours to an older section of wall between Tulkarm and Israel.

Knesset member Roman Bronfman told Ha'aretz that he had been swamped by demand for the Saturday trips, which are targeted at the immigrant community.

"We started with two buses and its become something of a trend," he said.

Standing at the wall - which was built after the Oslo Accords and is now 3.5 km long and three metres high - Mr Bronfman pointed out Tulkarm to around 300 new immigrants.

"It's just a kilometre and a half away," he told them. "A 10-minute run."

The trip struck a chord with Luba Siryobin, who said she was now convinced of the need for a fence.

The Russian community understands the significance of a border, she said, "because in Russia, a border was a very clear thing and we knew that no one could pass."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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The BBC's Jim Fish
"There are fears the de facto border will cut further chunks out of a future Palestinian state"

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16 Jun 02 | Middle East
15 Jun 02 | Middle East
14 Jun 02 | Middle East
13 Jun 02 | Middle East
09 Jun 02 | Middle East
09 Jun 02 | Middle East
06 Jun 02 | Middle East
05 Jun 02 | Middle East
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