TEL AVIV: Israel has built fences on its frontiers with Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. It has constructed walls through parts of the occupied West Bank and along the border with Gaza.
Now the Israelis are moving ahead with a fence along at least part of their border with Jordan as well.
On Monday, the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel would begin work on a 30-kilometre stretch of fence along its eastern border with Jordan — a friendly neighbour, unlike Lebanon and Syria — but in the view of Israeli security officials, a possible source of illegal immigrants and hostile infiltrators.
News of the fence construction coincided with attacks on Israelis in the occupied West Bank, underscoring the frequent episodes of violence that have heightened security concerns.
The Jordan border fence will run north starting at Eilat, the southern resort town on the Red Sea that has been the target of attacks initiated from the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, which the Israelis sealed off with a fence two years ago to help mitigate that threat.
Netanyahu said in a statement that the fence was a “very important step,” approved by his Security Cabinet on Sunday, and would be entirely on Israel’s side of the border. “The fence will not, in any way, infringe on the sovereignty of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and its national interests, which will be respected,” the statement said.
The Jordan fence is meant in part to protect an international airport under construction near Eilat in Timna, which is scheduled to open next year. It is not far from the Jordanian frontier and has been described as an alternative to the main international airport in Tel Aviv.
“I think the matter is to make the border area safe; we can control who comes in, whether terrorists or other people,” said an Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to discuss the matter.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that defence officials reckoned that the Timna airport would be a high-level target for Palestinian fighters. Haaretz said the fence was expected to cost around half a billion dollars.
Israel has heavily built up fences on its borders and areas it controls in recent years to keep out Palestinian attackers, discourage African asylum seekers and protect itself from extremist Islamist militants in Sinai.
There also is increasing concern about Jordan’s own ability to deter militant activities, partly because of its potential vulnerability to Daesh intrusions from Syria, to its north.
Israel’s wall in the West Bank dips into Palestinian territory, and its fence in the Golan Heights is built on territory Israel seized from Syria during the Arab-Israeli war of 1967.
The Jordanian border was the last area of Israel — except for the sea — to remain relatively open.