Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Wednesday that Israel must continue to promote the building of the separation fence in order to provide its citizens with maximum security, as well as to strengthen the settlement blocs in Beitar Ilit, Efrat, Gush Etzion, Maale Adumim, Beit Aryeh, Ariel and the Jordan Valley.
Mofaz spoke during a tour of the Gush Etzion regional council.
The minister was accompanied by Deputy Chief of Staff Major-General Moshe Kaplinsky and IDF Central Command Head Yair Naveh.
Defense minister during tour of Gush Etzion (Photo: Gil Yochanan)
Mofaz met with the heads of the Gush Etzion, Efrat and Beitar Ilit regional councils, and discussed the issue of the fence with them.
This was Mofaz's first visit to Gush Etzion since the implementation of the disengagement plan.
At the end of the meeting, Mofaz said that "I intend to operate on two issues: The first is to continue to promote the building of the fence in order to provide the citizens with maximum security, and the second is to strengthen settlement blocs, because I believe that the settlement blocs must be strong, together with the Jordan Valley."
"I ordered the defense establishment to advance all the outline plans and to minimize bureaucracy," he added.
Regarding the plan to evacuate the Hebron market and the Amona outpost, near Ofra, Mofaz said that "The High Court of Justice set a date. I hope that we will reach an understanding with the settlers. In order to execute the plans, I am going to meet the residents this week and talk to them."
'Continued construction may cause serious political damage'
Gush Etzion residents object to the building of the fence and have asked to place obstacles in problematic spots instead.
Shaul Goldstein, head of the Gush Etzion regional council, said that "We are concerned that under the guise of a security fence, a political fence will be established. We intend on fighting the issue, we will not give up on our settlements."
Shimon Karniel from the settlement of Kfar Etzion told Ynet that "This fence is a bad thing. It will choke us and disrupt lives that have been built here for years."
"Our neighbors will be outside the fence and we will be inside. This fence will cut our territories and the Palestinians' territories in the middle. This will only increase hatred and harm security," he charged.
Peace Now Secretary General Yariv Oppenheimer said in response to Mofaz's comments regarding construction in the E1 area, "The defense minister's promises to continue building settlements in violation to the Road Map plan and Israel's obligations, harms the country's interests and may cause serious political damage."