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Report 04 [JIIS -- A Fence Around Jerusalem -- Kobi Michael -- Amnon Ramon

Report 04 [JIIS -- A Fence Around Jerusalem -- Kobi Michael -- Amnon Ramon

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Published by: Didi Remez on May 23, 2010
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The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies
The Teddy Kollek Center for Jerusalem Studies
 A Fence Around Jerusalem
The Construction of the Security Fence Around Jerusalem
General background and implications for the city and its metropolitan area
Kobi Michael and Amnon Ramon2004
In April 2002, following a lengthy series of brutal terrorist attacks, the MinisterialCommittee for National Security (hereafter: the Security Cabinet), headed by PrimeMinister Ariel Sharon, decided to establish a security fence between Israel and theWest Bank.
Two months later, the government authorized the route of the fenceas proposed by the security establishment, between Sallem, in the northwest areaof the West Bank, and Kafr Kassem, as well as two sections in the Jerusalem area.Three major sections have been completed since work began in August 2002: thecentral section between Sallem and Elkana, constituting the main part of the fence;the northeastern section, in the Mount Gilboa region, between Sallem and KibbutzTirat Zvi; and two sections in the south and north of Jerusalem. In addition, partsof the obstacle were built east of Jersualem.Both the decision-making process with regard to the fence and the geographicreality and the political consciousness it has created reflect the problematic andcomplex nature of decisions concerning national security in Israel. Morespecifically, this enormous project will have far-reaching consequences for themutual relations between Israelis and Palestinians and between Israel and thePalestinian Authority, in the shadow of the ongoing violent confrontation betweenthe sides.The initial conception and incipient planning of the fence date back to thesecond government of Yitzhak Rabin, when Moshe Shahal, the Minister of Interior Security, initiated planning for the “seam zone.” However, the security situationbetween 1995 and 2002 did not generate massive public and political pressure to
In this document the terms “security fence,” “seam zone,” “obstacle” (the official ter-minology of the security establishment), and “separation/disengagement fence,” which iscommonly used by the Israeli media, will be used alternatively. In the international mediathe prevalent term is “wall.” It should be emphasized that the Israeli security establish-ment also uses several terms interchangeably, as can be seen, for example, on the officialIsraeli websites relating to the fence project. The Defense Ministry’s site is called “TheSeam Zone” in Hebrew and “The Security Fence” in English.See:
build a fence. Consequently, the Israeli governments in this period found no justification to embark on such a project, not least because of their concern that afence would effectively determine the eastern border between sovereign Israeland the West Bank. By the summer of 2002, however, the fence project was virtuallyforced on the government, as the public demanded an adequate response toPalestinian terrorism which had brought about a severe deterioration of the securitysituation and left Israelis feeling highly vulnerable and deeply insecure in everysense.Although the fence originated as a “security necessity,” the planners, whocame from the security establishment, were compelled to consider numerous“civilian” aspects (including domestic and external political pressure). The vastcomplexity of the project meant that the planners were unable to anticipate all theimplications, consequences, and ramifications of the fence and its operationalregime in many “civilian” and security spheres. These inherent difficulties wereoften compounded due to the absence of clear guidance by the political level,which, subjected to contradictory domestic and international pressures, found itdifficult to decide the route of the fence. At the same time, it needs to be emphasizedthat the security establishment was the only planning and operational body inIsrael capable of coping with a project on this scale within a reasonable period.Another result of the complexity of this “national project” was “conceptualconfusion” that characterized the process. From the outset, a number of termshave been used to describe the project, each representing a different rationale. Inpart, the conceptual confusion appears to reflect an inherent tension betweenconsiderations of a strictly security character (as in the terms “security fence” or “separation fence”) and political-state considerations, both internal and external,which bring about a blurring of the separation boundary (as in the term “seamzone”). Indeed, as will be seen later, in present-day Israel it is all but impossible todifferentiate between “pure” security considerations (within the Green Line andfor the settlements in Judea and Samaria) and domestic and external political andstate-policy considerations.Particularly acute problems in planning and building the fence have arisen inand around Jerusalem, one of the most complex and complicated cities in theworld. The major difficulty lies in the fact that in many cases the fence in theJerusalem area does not separate Jewish and Arab populations, but instead cuts off 

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