Netanyahu again vows to build long-touted fence along border with Jordan

PM has promised such a security barrier repeatedly over the past decade, an effort expected to cost billions

Illustrative: Israeli soldiers guard near the security fence between Israel and Jordan in the Arava Valley in southern Israel, February 9, 2016. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)
Illustrative: Israeli soldiers guard near the security fence between Israel and Jordan in the Arava Valley in southern Israel, February 9, 2016. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday once again floated the idea of building a fence along the entire border with Jordan to prevent infiltrations into the country — an expensive undertaking that has made little progress in the past.

“We erected a fence on our southern border (with Egypt) and prevented the infiltration from there into Israel,” Netanyahu posted on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter. “We thereby stopped more than a million infiltrators from Africa, who would have destroyed our country.

“Now we will erect a fence on our eastern border (with Jordan) and ensure that there will be no infiltration from there either,” he added. “We will protect our borders, and we will protect our country!”

The prime minister made his comments a day after unprecedented clashes between groups of Eritrean migrants broke out in south Tel Aviv. Dozens of rioters were hospitalized after police responded to the clashes with live fire, and many officers were wounded.

Most African migrants arrived in Israel through Egypt in 2007-2012, before Israel built a barrier along the desert border. Few migrants have arrived since that time.

Netanyahu has announced the creation of such a fence along Israel’s border with Jordan a number of times over the past decade: He ordered IDF and Defense Ministry officials to start planning in 2012, touted the start of construction of a sensor-laden fence on the southern border with Jordan in 2015, and announced in 2016 that he planned to “surround the entire State of Israel with a fence.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tours the new fence along the Jordanian border with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and the head of the Southern Command Eyal Zamir, February 9, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Earlier this summer, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also suggested that Israel would build a new security barrier along the border with Jordan.

Gallant told a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting in July that “terror organizations have identified [the West Bank] as a weak spot, and direct many resources there for the purpose of attacks. Looking ahead, we intend to erect a barrier on the border with Jordan as well.”

There is an aging fence along the 309-kilometer (192-mile) border that Jordan shares with Israel and the West Bank, though military and police officials say it is sufficient to prevent most gun-smuggling attempts.

A 30-kilometer (18-mile) portion of the border with Jordan, near the southernmost city of Eilat and the new Ramon International Airport, has been upgraded in a similar fashion to Israel’s border barriers with Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

Israel shelled out NIS 300 million ($88 million) for the small section of the border near Eilat, meaning that a project to cover the whole Jordanian border would likely cost billions of shekels.

The Israel-Jordan border is a hotbed of gun- and drug-smuggling attempts. According to police data, security authorities have seized at least 506 handguns, 24 assault rifles, and eight explosive devices, in 26 separate smuggling attempts on the Jordan border since the beginning of this year.

Officials say that weapons that have made it over the border — likely tens of thousands over the past decade — have fueled a surge in violence in the Arab community, and have been used by Palestinian terrorists shooting at soldiers and civilians in the West Bank.

Last week, the IDF announced that it had foiled an attempt to smuggle Iranian-made explosives into Israel from Jordan a month earlier.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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