Israel's Security Barrier

By Jakob Schiller

Map of the Israeli Security Barrier
Map of the 1949 armistice line (green line) and Israel's Security Barrier (red and white line)

The Green Line

The Green Line refers to the 1949 armistice line drawn at the conclusion of the first Arab-Israeli war, which broke out in 1948. It established the border between the newly formed state of Israel and the rest of historic Palestine, which was reduced to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Israel’s Security Barrier

Israel started construction on its Security Barrier in June 2002. The barrier, or what is also referred to as “the wall,” or more benignly, “the fence,” depending on your viewpoint, is a structure of solid concrete, more than 26 feet high -- twice the height of the Berlin Wall -- with armed sniper towers positioned every 1,000 feet or so in certain places. In other areas, the barrier is a complex series of electric fences, razor wire, motion sensors, military patrol roads and trenches that stretch from 100 feet to more than 300 feet wide.

Completion Plan

Once completed, the barrier will be about 416 miles long. The barrier does not follow the route of the 195-mile-long Green Line. Figures from October 2005 show that (1) 75 percent of the total length of the barrier (constructed and projected) is inside West Bank territory; (2) only a quarter of the barrier follows the Green Line; and (3) about a third of the barrier had been completed and another quarter was under construction.

International Response to the Barrier

In a 2004 ruling, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found that “the construction by Israel of a wall in the Occupied Territories and its associated regime are contrary to international law.” In 2005, the Israeli Supreme Court found that the ICJ ruling is not legally binding in Israel.

The Israeli Supreme Court has also made two of its own rulings on the barrier, one in 2004 and the other in 2005. Both resulted in rerouting parts of the barrier that the court found to have an unnecessary impact on the rights of Palestinians.

In March, Ehud Olmert, Israel’s new prime minister, said he would like to make Israel’s border permanent by 2010 and that it would run along or closely match the one formed by the barrier currently under construction.

Impact on Local Communities

Thus far, construction of the barrier has resulted in the confiscation of more than 3,500 hectares of West Bank land. The buffer zone around the barrier in the northern West Bank, including the actual land where the barrier is built, covers 15,533 acres.

If the barrier’s current projected route is followed, including those sections that are still under review, 10 percent of the entire West Bank plus East Jerusalem -- approximately 58,000 hectares -- will lie between the barrier and the Green Line. It is estimated that 50,000 West Bank Palestinians in some 38 villages will be stranded in this area.

Of the 230,000 Palestinians who currently hold residency permits for East Jerusalem, 25 percent of them will find themselves east of the barrier and will be forced to cross the barrier in order to access services in Jerusalem to which they are currently entitled.

Compiled by Jakob Schiller

SOURCES: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs; PLO Negotiations Affairs Department; Israeli Ministry of Defense; Friends of the Earth Middle East; World Bank; Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem, B’tselem.

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Jakob Schiller

Jakob Schiller is from New Mexico and grew up in a secular Jewish family. He is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Cruz and is about to complete a master’s degree in print and documentary photography at the U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. For the past four years, Schiller has reported in Arab and Jewish communities here in the United States, documenting their connection to the Middle East conflict. This trip to Israel and Palestine was his first.