Farther north around ancient Armageddon and the tourist lookout points of Mount Gilboa, a wrong turn leads to a warning sign, or a gap in the trees reveals a West Bank Palestinian village below in the distance.
The relative rarity of these fleeting glimpses shows how, 20 years after the Second Palestinian Intifada (uprising), many Israelis ceased seeing the Palestinians as prospective peace partners, and prefer not to see them at all.
Israel credits the barrier with having stemmed Palestinian suicide bombings and shooting attacks during the five-year intifada, in which more than 1,000 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinians were killed.
Palestinians say it was a land grab that cuts miles into the West Bank and was designed to annex parts of the territory that Israel captured and occupied in the 1967 Middle East war, and which Palestinians seek for a future state.
The International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled in an advisory opinion in 2004 that the barrier was illegal under international law. Israel rejected this, accusing the court of being “politically motivated”.
But there is little argument that the barrier has shifted the geographical terms of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – radically changing the dynamic between two intertwined peoples.
While West Bank Palestinians could before 2000 easily walk or drive into Israel, a generation later, some Israelis are now most likely to encounter them while serving as soldiers at a checkpoint – unless they are among the 450,000 Israelis now living in West Bank settlements.
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