On April 14th, 2002, in response to a series of terrorist attacks on civilians, the government of Israel decided to construct a barrier between Israel's citizens and the bulk of the Palestinian people in the West Bank. The stated aim was to prevent suicide bombers and weapon smugglers from entering Israel's territory from the West Bank. The barrier was planned to cover three regions found to be most vulnerable: the Umm El-Fahm region, the Qalqilya-Tulkarm region, and the greater Jerusalem region. On June 23rd of the same year, the government approved the recommendation of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to construct the barrier along most of the seam line (also known as the Green Line), the pre-1967 border. Two months later, the government approved the "final" route of the barrier. This route has been modified several times because of pressure from the United States and other countries, and because of the decisions of the Israeli Supreme Court.
There are several layers to the security barrier. Most of the route (95%) consists of an electronic fence that can alert the IDF to any attempts at infiltration. On the Palestinian side of the barrier is a trench to prevent vehicles from passing through and to provide a road for Israeli military vehicles to drive along. On the Israeli side of the barrier are three roads: a dirt road for the purpose of discovering the tracks of any attempted infiltrators, a patrol road, and a road for armored vehicles. In several areas, the electronic fence has been replaced by a 30-foot concrete wall.
Different groups/organizations/governments call the barrier by different names depending on their political positions and how they wish the barrier to be perceived. Alternative terms used for the "security barrier," the term used here, include security fence, anti-terror fence, apartheid wall, separation fence/wall, and seam-line barrier.
The security barrier is perhaps the most immediately disputed measure resulting from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Those who argue in support of the security barrier believe that:
Israel is fighting a wave of terrorism inflicted by Palestinian extremists; at issue is the security of the citizens of Israel.
The barrier has already proved its efficacy in the areas where it has been completed, significantly reducing the number of terrorist attacks.
The main consideration in choosing the route of the barrier was security and operational considerations.
A great effort was made to construct the barrier on land that is not privately owned, used for agriculture, nor would otherwise harm civilian populations.
New roads and gateways will be constructed to allow farmers to reach their lands, and to improve transportation hindered by the barrier.
All land seizure activities were done legally, with prior notification given to owners, allowing them to submit appeals as dictated by Israeli law.
Landowners whose land has been damaged or seized have been compensated for their loss.
The barrier is a temporary measure, and will be removed once terror ends and a political solution to the conflict is established.
Arguments that have been made against the security barrier are:
Israel has illegally seized occupied Palestinian land in order to construct the barrier.
The barrier will separate Palestinian farmers from their lands.
The barrier will force many Palestinian residents to cross through checkpoints, delaying and limiting their daily movement.
Use of water wells for agricultural purposes will not be possible.
The barrier will hinder the access of ambulances and other services, such as transportation of goods between different Palestinian cities and villages.
Students' access to their schools and universities will be impaired.
Rather than building the barrier on the seam line between Israel and the West Bank, the route de facto annexes large tracts of Palestinian land.
The barrier is a violation of the Geneva Convention and has been deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice, asked to give its opinion by the UN. (the Israeli Supreme Court ruled sections of the barrier illegal, causing the route to be adjusted.)
The barrier cuts communication between Palestinian villages and cities in order to protect settlement blocks such as Ma'ale Adumim, Ariel, and Gush Etzion.
The barrier is not just a security barrier, but a political barrier intending to include as many Jewish settlers and exclude as many Palestinians as possible.