Security Fence Already Saving Lives, Israeli Security Chief Says

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:14 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - The head of Israel's secret service argued on Tuesday that Israel's security depends on completing the controversial barrier between Israel and the West Bank as soon as possible. The fence should be financed through donations if necessary, he said.

Israel has reaped harsh international criticism for building the fence, which it claims has already saved lives. The Palestinians say Israel is using the fence, which winds its way into West Bank territory, in an effort to seize land that the Palestinians want to use for a future state.

The U.N. decided last week to bring the issue of the fence's legality before the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

Washington has backed the idea of the fence but is opposed to its route and has decided to deduct money spent on the barrier from loan guarantees it is extending to Israel.

But Israel Security Agency chief Avi Dichter said that building the fence -- more than 90 miles of which has already been completed -- is already saving lives.

The most important thing is building the fence, which has certainly saved human lives," Dichter said on Tuesday on the opening day of the three-day Herzlyia Conference near Tel Aviv.

"The terrorists who had planned to target Yoqne'am were delayed and had to take a longer route because of the fence," Dichter said, referring to a thwarted suicide bombing that allegedly targeted a high school.

"Financing for the fence must be raised by any means possible, whether through government funding, trusts and funds, or even through passing the collection box among citizens," he said.

In the rare public appearance, Dichter said that in the last three years of intifadah, 901 Israelis had been killed - more than half, 540, within Israel proper. Although suicide attacks represented only 0.5 percent of all terrorist activities, they had resulted in 55 percent of the casualties.

"All suicide bombers came from the West Bank with few exceptions," he said.

Dichter said that the current calm is not reflective of reality.

"Since the attack on Maxim restaurant in Haifa, we have thwarted 20 suicide bombers," Dichter said of the attack in early October, two days before the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, in which 21 people were killed.

"During the last 10 days alone we thwarted three suicide bombers in the eleventh hour," he said. "The relative calm now reigning is both belying and intoxicating, and does not reflect the true state of affairs.""

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