By Uli Schmetzer
Special to the Tribune
Published August 24, 2003
KEDUMIM, West Bank -- The last time Israeli officials came through this West Bank settlement offering to build a security fence was 20 years ago, and Daniella Weiss, a local community leader, firmly declined. The fence was never built.
Today, the Israeli government is once again preparing to build a fence to separate this hilltop community from Palestinian areas nearby. It's part of the 370-mile long barrier that Israel says it must construct through the West Bank to protect Israelis from Palestinian attacks, such as last week's suicide bombing that killed 20 people on a Jerusalem bus.
This time, Weiss is the mayor of Kedumim, a settlement that defines itself as "right-wing religious Zionist." And she's more fiercely opposed than ever to the idea of a fence.
"If they build that security fence through here, I'll personally tear every stake out with my own hands," Weiss said. In the valley below her, bulldozers have already flattened a wide swath of land to make way for the new barrier, which takes the form of a fence in some places, and barbed wire, trenches and concrete walls in others.
Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said recently that Israel would press ahead with construction of the controversial barrier, contending that the portions already built had prevented some Palestinian suicide bombers from launching attacks.
Palestinians are bitterly opposed to the construction of the Israeli barrier because they contend it is encroaching on West Bank lands they claim as part of their future state. President Bush has termed the Israeli barrier "a problem" because he said it harms confidence-building measures between Israelis and Palestinians that are a key part of the Washington-backed "road map" peace plan, which is now in jeopardy after last week's resurgent Middle East violence.