Ha'aretz reports that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's bureau chief, Dov Weisglass, has said that the West Bank barrier fence will be made 100 kilometers or 64 miles shorter to be 600 kilometers or 375 miles long.
The route of the separation fence will be shortened by moving it westward toward the Green Line and eliminating most of the loops planned around Palestinian villages, according to a senior source in Jerusalem.
This will reduce the amount of disruption the barrier wall causes the Palestinians and the Sharon government hopes that by making this change the Bush Administration will approve of the project.
It is necessary for Israel to separate itself from the Palestinians. The only thing to be decided at this point are the conditions chosen for the separation. Since this move puts more Palestinians clearly on the West Bank side of the wall and reduces the extent to which the wall impinges on Palestinian lives it is a move in the right direction.
Some settlements will be left on the Palestinian side of the wall. (Jerusalem Post, requires free registration)
The changes would exclude several major settlements from the Israeli side of the fence, including Ariel, Karnei Shomron, and Kedumim.
These settlements ought to be evacuated. The Israelis can not safely live among the Palestinians. There is plenty of room in Israel for them to live.
The shortening of the wall comes to about $3 million saved per mile eliminated.
The amended route could make the fence more than 100 kilometers shorter – cutting its cost by about $200 million,
Aside: This cost per mile would put a US barrier with Mexico to keep out illegal aliens at a cost of about $6 billion, which is line with previous estimates I've made here give or take a billion or two. One reason the cost estimates vary is that different parts of the barrier are built to different standards depending the terrain, threat of snipers, and other concerns.
Note that if little Israel can afford a $1 billion or $2 billion dollar border barrier then the two orders of magnitude larger US economy could certainly afford a $6 to $8 billion dollar border barrier on the US-Mexico border.
This announcement comes out at about the same time as an Israeli human rights group has filed a suit to ask the top Israeli court to stop the construction of the barrier.
Israeli human rights groups yesterday asked the country's supreme court to stop the construction of a vast "security fence" through the West Bank, on the grounds that it breaches international and Israeli law and creates a form of apartheid.
Also, just two weeks ago the UN asked the International Court of Justice to rule on the legality of the barrier.
It came just two weeks before the International Court of Justice in The Hague is due to deliberate the barrier's legality at the behest of the United Nations.
Curiously, not only the US but the EU as well has taken the position that the ICJ does not have jurisdiction to rule on this matter. An ICJ ruling against the barrier could lead to the UN Security Council taking up the matter. But if the Sharon government's change on barrier path sufficiently placates the Bush Administration then the US government will probably veto any UN Security Council resolution against the barrier and it is possible that other Security Council members will vote against such a resolution. The British government, for instance, must understand that the barrier is necessary.
On the previous link the Christian Science Monitor has a picture of a section of the barrier with a Palestinian woman walking past it. The barrier in that section dwarfs a human.
With the thud of tons of concrete hitting soft earth, Israel worked yesterday to build a 25-foot-tall wall on the edge of Jerusalem, signaling that its encirclement of the city is becoming permanent.
Writing for the New York Times James Bennet describes one section reaches 9 meters in height.
Nezah Mashiah, head of the barrier project at the Defense Ministry, says the wall is being built so high to protect against a direct line of fire from long-range weapons.
So then will terrorists bring up bomb material to try to blast a hole through it to conduct attacks?
The barrier, which is about one-quarter built, reaches deep into the West Bank in some areas, preventing residents from reaching jobs, farmland and social services.
The sooner the barrier is completed the better.
A senior Palestinian official said Monday that Yasser Arafat's government is considering declaring a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem if Israel tries to impose a boundary on the Palestinians.
Arafat's clique has defined itself against Israel. Once they declare statehood they are going to face a serious crisis whose outlines are already beginning to show.
Almost 400 members of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's ruling Fatah Party resigned Saturday to protest what they call corruption and bad leadership within the movement.
Deprived of Israel as a practical day-to-day target the various Palestinian factions may fall into fighting among themselves. It is quite possible that a Palestinian civil war could break out. If that happens it seems likely that different factions will win out in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Hamas might win in Gaza while some break-away PLO faction of young "Turks" might win in the West Bank.
A civil war that splits the West Bank and Gaza Strip into effectively separate countries does not strike me as a bad outcome. It would bring an end to the current corrupt power monopoly in the PA leadership. The Palestinians would get to see how well they did under two separate governments made up of Palestinians. One of them might even be democratic. Having Gaza and the West Bank as two separated pieces of the same larger governmental entity seems like an unnatural state of affairs rather like East and West Pakistan before the civil war that broke Bangladesh off into a separate country.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2004 February 10 06:38 PM MidEast Arabs Versus Israelis|