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Construction of Gush Etzion separation fence delayed due to settler objections

Six months after the Ministry of Defense announced plans to resume construction of the fence in Gush Etzion, the IDF informed settler leaders that construction will not be resumed until the route is reevaluated by government.

The Gush Etzion settlement bloc just south of Bethlehem is the location of one of the biggest gaps in the wall in Israel-Palestine. Dozens of miles of the planned route of this project, launched ten years ago following the rise in suicide attacks in Israeli cities, remain unbuilt with construction at a full halt for nearly five years. The lack of construction is due to the pause in hostilities, insufficient funds, and a political clash between government aspirations of annexation, settler pressures against the “insufficient” annexation, and U.S. (and possibly High Court) resistance to the extreme route.

Planned route of the fence in Gush Etzion. Purple and dotted red are yet unbuilt (source: B'Tselem)

Planned route of the fence in Gush Etzion. The purple and dotted red represent the section that has yet to be built. (source: B’Tselem)

However, a couple of months ago, the Ministry of Defense announced that it would resume construction in both the significant gaps in the wall’s route: Gush Etzion, and Mishor Adumim (around the controversial E1 area and Ma’ale Adumim). Alongside Palestinian and international resistance to this route, deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice, construction plans also had settlers gathering their forces for a fight.

Gush Etzion settlers, led by head of their regional council, Davidi Pearl, petitioned, demonstrated and met with Prime Miniser Netanyahu, claiming that the current route would leave parts of the Gush outside the fence (including Nokdim, home of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman). According to them, this would delegitimize their “inherent” belonging to Israel, damage local ecosystems, limit expansion of settlements, damper relations with local Palestinian villagers, and is generally no longer necessary as terror attacks in the West Bank have virtually stopped.

Anti-wall Christmas demonstration in Ma'asara, south of Bethlehem, 2008 (Haggai Matar)

Anti-wall Christmas demonstration in Ma’asara, south of Bethlehem, 2008 (Haggai Matar)

Last week the settlers’ pressure bore fruit. The right-wing oriented newspaper Makor Rishon and other settler media outlets report that Pearl received a letter from Major General Yair Nave, promising that construction will not resume before the entire route is reevaluated by the government. The announcement comes after two weeks of intensive military presence on the planned route, reported by Palestinian residents of the area, who themselves have been demonstrating for more than six years now against the annexing fence. “We know that the threat has not been fully lifted, but for the time being we have successfully led to a halt,” Pearl told Makor Rishon. “When a new government is sworn in we will bring the matter to them and resume handling of the situation.”

Read also:

Special coverage: The wall, 10 years on

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    1. ish yehudi

      finally- a common enemy we can all gather around.. We have been fantasizing about a protest with Gush Etzion Jews and Palestinians, anarchists against the wall and ???all together— a chance to meet and see each other as people on the ground with perhaps more in common than we allow?

      Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        Where is common ground between people who want to keep their lands and people who want to expropriate it?

        Reply to Comment
        • ish yehudi

          we both want to keep our lands, brother. we both know the other wants to expropriate it.

          Reply to Comment
          • Palestinian

            This isnt your land , settlers are thieves that have to be returned to their countries of origin.

            Reply to Comment
          • ish yehudi

            we ‘settler’s are jewish people who have not been received so kindly in our walks around the world. There is one land, where we call home. This may be the same as your story- i’m believe you. But if you won’t hear us and think about sitting here together and go on calling us to go back to the Germanies, Iraqs, Tunisias, Turkeys, Hungarys, SPains where we come from— thinnk again. We’ve done our waiting, working, protesting, fighting, bleeding etc to get here. I pray it’s time we can work in different ways.

            Reply to Comment
          • Palestinian

            The thief to the owner “I spent time planning ,working and even fighting to steal your property ,I cant give it back to you”!A large percentage of settlers emigrated from North America to fulfill a religious myth!You wanna coexist ,allow us back .

            Reply to Comment
          • Rauna

            1.People just don’t hate others for the sake of hating. There must be a reason for it. Have you ever explored why “you have not been received so kindly in your walks around the world.”

            2.What this hatred got to do with the Palestinian?

            Reply to Comment
          • aristeides

            Ish, you’ve got a severe case of false moral equivalence going there.

            At any rate, certainly no place for the two parties to find common ground.

            Reply to Comment
          • ish yehudi

            1st, don’t worry i’m not claiming that we’re suffering more.. no equivelizing, just acknowledging that we both believe we belong here. And we’re both ready to die for that.
            And about your projection that there’s no place- i’m meeting more and more ofyour brothers and sisters out here who think otherwise. We’ve got a lot more in common than just the air water, land and love of this land. We’re also people of faith, community, value G-ds will and somewhere deep inside even our most radicals- are trying to do what we’re doing as a way of serving G-ds will. However mixed up we may get about that. Maybe you think all settlers are out there chopping down trees and spraypainting- just like I assumed all Arabs are throwing rocks and carrying knives. I’m a Jew living on land bought by a Jew over 90 years ago, on top of ruins from a Jewish town 2400 years old. Do you or anyone on this site care to distinguish within your scapegoat term “settler”? I sit for tea with Palestinian neighbors and we try to figure out how we can get our young people out of the cycle of fear and hate… How to make sulha between the families of stabbers and stabbees from our respective towns. And the people of my town (some, not all) are proud and interested when they hear whats going on.
            So lets all try and work to keep our ideologies and politics frmo blinding us to the people who are living next to us. Its something a lot easier to do I suppose when you’re actually living here- because I see both sides being egged on from our supporters abroad- leading us farther and farther into our ideas and away from the enemy or brother we live next to

            Reply to Comment
          • aristeides

            Ish – what you say doesn’t directly address the issue of the separation wall and its route. Those settlers who oppose the wall’s route claim to be against the fact that it would “limit settlement expansion”. And settlement expansion tends almost always to be onto Palestinian land.

            I don’t see how the Palestinian neighbors of these settlements are going to see any advantage in making a common cause.

            Reply to Comment
          • Rauna

            Ish Yehudi,

            One of the reasons for deferring wall construction is “limit expansion of settlements”. Is this not land expropriation to you?

            Reply to Comment
    2. Cort Greene

      I guess Israel had to save their fences since they just finish building one between Egypt and now want to build one with Syria and the Golan so the opposition and refugees to the Assad regime can’t get out.More backing of the fascist regime by Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    3. The settlers vote and, as Noam tells us, their power is increasing.

      So democracy can have an effect on the IDF.

      If you can vote.

      As to Ish Yehudi, above: I wish him right.

      Reply to Comment
    4. directrob

      The ICJ called the wall (it discarded the name fence) illegal (not just the route) and the settlements illegal.

      If in doubt whether to call the thing (in one article!) a wall or a fence, for an international public, I would propose to call it the “illegal wall”.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        Since when all judges are always right?

        If that was the case, than there was no need for appeals.

        One of judges of the court is not even sure that the court has jurisdiction over the case.

        Quote start
        [i]However, I believe that
        the issue of jurisdiction and especially the issue of judicial propriety is a matter that the Court should examine, proprio motu if necessary, in order to ensure that it is not only riglzt as a matter of law but also proper as a matter of judicial policy for the Court as a judicial body to exercise jurisdiction in the concrete context of the case. This means, at least to my mind, that the Court would be required to engage in an in-depth scrutiny of all aspects of the particular circumstances of the present case relevant to the consideration of the case, if necessary going beyond what has been argued by the participants.

        One of such aspects of the present case is the implication of the existence of a bilateral dispute in the subject-matter of the request for an advisory opinion.[/i]
        Quote end


        I suggest you keep your propositions to yourself for a while.

        Reply to Comment
    5. directrob

      I see that you agree with judge Barak about the relevance of the advisory. In the world outside Israel this court is supreme. That is why I wrote “international public”.

      The only judge that disagreed with the jurisdiction was Thomas Buergent.

      Judge Owada Hisashi was not unsure whether the court had Jurisdiction (in his opinion it had) neither whether the court ruled correctly (in his opinion it did). He wanted in-dept scrutiny of all aspects, not only ensuring the objective fairness in the result, but in seeing to it that the Court is seen to maintain fairness throughout the proceedings.

      Maybe he was afraid of “The Trespasser” trying to take apart the advisory.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        I can tell you without any hesitation that to a very large number of people outside of Israel this court is not ‘Supreme’.

        In any case, advisory opinions, as you have noticed, are of very limited practical value.

        Reply to Comment