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Analysts Say Israel's Controversial Barrier Is Unlikely to Be Completed

On the Israeli side, it is seen as more than a coincidence that suicide bombings declined as the barrier snaked its way through the West Bank. The last one was 18 months ago. Although Palestinian officials argue that their changing politics and commitment to security have played a more important role, polls show that the barrier is popular in Israel. Criticism, even from dovish Israelis who favor a Palestinian state, has been over the route, rather than the barrier itself.

Retired Israeli Col. Shaul Arieli, who has written a book on the barrier, said its existence may contribute to the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state.

"Israelis have internalized the idea of separation and the division of two states," he said. "Everything outside the barrier won't be part of Israel."

In a written statement, Defense Ministry spokesman Shlomo Dror said there has been no change in Israeli policy regarding the barrier's completion.

"The security fence has been mostly constructed, although some parts have not been completed because of different considerations -- budgetary, legal and other," Dror said.

Since 2007 the political dynamics around the barrier have shifted. That year, an Israeli government commission reviewing the military budget criticized the handling of the barrier's construction and its $2.5 billion cost. Much of the unfinished work involves "fingers" of the barrier around Jewish settlements deep in the West Bank, potentially controversial in a climate in which the Obama administration is trying to curb Israeli activity in the West Bank as a prelude to restarting peace talks.

That is little consolation in Maale Adumim, where debate over the barrier's route and completion shows that the project has gone beyond a simple matter of security and entered the fabric of daily life and politics.

Shlomo Lecker, an Israeli lawyer who opposed construction of the barrier here on behalf of Palestinian clients, said the route had less to do with security and more with securing "as much land as possible" for the settlement.

Maale Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel said he has little doubt that "the route of the barrier will determine the future border between us and the future Palestinian state" -- despite official Israeli policy that the wall's route is irrelevant to final border negotiations. Of more practical concern, he said, is that, in the absence of the barrier, residents of Maale Adumim must pass through an Israeli border police checkpoint to enter Jerusalem -- the same checkpoint used by Palestinians who want to enter Israel.

"It's a daily nightmare for our residents," Kashriel said. "Sometimes it can take an hour and a half to get to work."

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