Bigger budget for problem barrier

The Israeli government has allocated $160-million to extend its controversial West Bank security barrier, Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday.

“This week, we allocated an additional 700 million shekels [$160-million] to build the security fence from the Elkana implantation [a Jewish settlement in the northern West Bank] and around Jerusalem,” the minister told a security conference in Herzliya, just north of Tel Aviv.

He said it is essential for Israel “to complete the contruction as soon as possible” for security reasons, despite the chorus of international criticism the project has drawn.

The United States has called the barrier, which in places cuts deep into Palestinian territory, a “problem”.

And the Palestinians’ international donors have repeatedly slammed the project saying it will increase unemployment, stop children from going to school and displace the local population.

Palestinians charge Israel wants to confiscate more of their land and unilaterally decide on the borders of their future state.

But the Israeli government insists that the separation fence only aims to stop would-be suicide bombers whose attacks have rocked Israel since the beginning of the intifada 38 months ago.

“The treasury will always release the necessary funds to finance the construction” of the barrier, said Netanyahu, adding that more than $400-million has been allocated to the project in 2003 alone.

He said the additional funds will come from a hike in fuel prices.

Parliament’s defence budget committee had already made $100-million of the $160-million available on November 9.

Washington last month deducted nearly $300-million from loan guarantees available to Israel after disagreements over settlement activity and the barrier.

The United Nations General Assembly has also demanded Israel “stop and reverse” construction of the barrier.—Sapa-AFP

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