Netanyahu Says Fences Needed to Keep Out `Beasts of Prey'

Updated on
  • Eliminating infiltration tunnels threat top priority: Eizenkot
  • Government's handling of security threats has been criticized

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, under mounting criticism of his government’s handling of security threats, promised to encircle the country in an uninterrupted strip of barriers.

The multiyear project will cost billions of shekels and “surround the entire State of Israel with security fences to protect ourselves in the current and projected Middle East,” Netanyahu said Tuesday while touring a fence being built on the border with Jordan.

“In the surroundings in which we live, we have to defend ourselves against beasts of prey,” he said.

The prime minister articulated his vision of sealing off Israel from enemies following four months of stabbing, shooting and hit-and-run attacks by Palestinians, and reports of Gaza militants building infiltration tunnels into Israel. More than two dozen Israelis and about 170 Palestinians, most of them attackers, have died in the violence, centered inside Israel and the West Bank.

Compromising Security

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog accused Netanyahu of compromising the country’s security and prospects for peacemaking by not completing the security barrier that’s been under construction along and inside the West Bank for more than a decade.

Separation from the Palestinians would choke off the current round of attacks on Israelis and allow for the resumption of peace moves by easing the animus between the sides, Herzog , leader of the centrist Zionist Union bloc, told reporters in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

“Once you have security and once you calm down the situation, you can move again to a process that’s pragmatic and real and tangible,” he said. “Reality calls right now to understand that peace is not around the corner. What needs to be done is to separate from the Palestinians as much as possible.”

Israel began building the West Bank enclosure after a wave of suicide bombings, citing security needs. Palestinian leaders consider it a land grab because it dips into the West Bank in parts. It’s also been a point of contention with the Palestinians because it cuts some of them off from farmlands and facilities on the other side of the route.

Barriers, some incomplete, have also been built on the borders with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. But Netanyahu is under pressure to show he’s taking action against growing security threats, including tunnels Gaza Strip militants are digging to infiltrate Israel.

Attack Tunnels

Palestinian militants used such passages from Gaza to send armed fighters across the border in Israel’s 2014 war with Gaza. Rebuffing claims of government inaction, chief of staff Lieutenant General Gadi Eizenkot said eliminating the tunnel threat was a top priority. Military personnel are using specialized engineering equipment and close to 100 vehicles to detect them, he said at a conference on Tuesday. They’re also developing tunnel detection technology along with the U.S.

At least 10 Gazans have been killed in recent weeks by collapsing tunnels, most recently on Tuesday. At one funeral, Hamas deputy chief Ismail Haniyeh vowed to continue building the group’s network of underground passages and fighting Israel “until the liberation of the holy places in Jerusalem.”

Wiping out the underground corridors was one of the military’s chief aims during the 2014 conflict. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told Israel Radio last week that every report of underground noises by frontier residents was checked, and nothing has been located underneath Israeli homes.

(Updates with opposition leader comments from fifth paragraph.)
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