IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot on Tuesday urged Knesset lawmakers to complete Israel’s security barrier along the Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank to prevent the thousands of Palestinians who enter Israel illegally each day and reduce the recent surge in terror attacks.
At a Knesset State Control Committee meeting, Eisenkot said that Palestinians “view terrorism as a political, social and religious tool to advance political goals,” and attacks were a “daily occurrence that we are grappling with in Judea and Samaria,” using the alternate, biblical name for the West Bank.
Eisenkot said portions of the security barrier that are fenced, rather than walled, contribute to the illegal entry of an estimated 50,000-60,000 Palestinians into Israel each day.
In contrast, the IDF chief said Israeli security forces only manage to arrest approximately 4,300 permit-less Palestinians per year, and that 44 percent of the terror attacks carried out in the recent upsurge in violence were in some way connected to Palestinians who were in Israel illegally.
Those numbers, Eisenkot said, were in addition to the 100,000 permit-holding Palestinians who enter Israel legally each day. “None of those with legal entry permits have been involved in the recent violence,” he said.
“We are making efforts to close the open border areas. There are still 100 kilometers of border without a security wall,” he said adding that securing particularly vulnerable areas in Gush Eztion, south of Jerusalem, would cost an estimated NIS 260 million.
Eisenkot called for reforms in the permit-obtaining procedure, and harsher penalties for Israeli businesses who employ Palestinian workers illegally.
“We must create a balance between the needs of the economy and of the Palestinians and our own security requirements,” he said.
On Monday, a Palestinian convicted on terrorism charges and released as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap in 2011 was caught working illegally at a construction site in the central Israel city of Ra’anana.
The suspect, identified as Qawareiq Hindawi, 27, was detained along with seven other Palestinian workers who were also in Israel illegally.
Hindawi was released from prison five years ago as part of the prisoner exchange for the captive Israeli soldier, after serving four years of a six-year sentence for membership in an illegal organization and criminal possession of a weapon.
Under the terms of his release, he was barred from reentering Israel, and may now face serving the remainder of his prison sentence.
Asked why he had broken the terms of his release, Hindawi told police: “This is our land. When we want to, we enter. With all due respect, this is our land. You are the first to say I need a permit.”
In the 2011 swap, Israel freed 1,027 Palestinians in return for the abducted Israeli soldier. At least six Israelis have since been killed in attacks perpetrated by Palestinian prisoners released in the exchange who returned to terrorist activity.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.