by Mitchell Bard
After scores of suicide bombings and daily terrorist attacks against its civilians that have killed more than 850 people and wounded thousands more since September 2000, Israel’s unity government decided to construct a security fence near the northern part of the pre-1967 “Green Line” between Israel and the West Bank to prevent Palestinian terrorists from infiltrating into Israeli population centers. The project has had the overwhelming support of the Israeli public which sees the barrier as vital to their security.
There is actually nothing new about the construction of a security fence. Many other nations have fences to protect their borders (the United States is building one now to keep out illegal Mexican immigrants). Israel has similar barriers along its borders with Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. In fact, a fence already surrounds the Gaza Strip and not a single suicide bomber has managed to get across the Gaza barrier into Israel. Ironically, after condemning Israel's barrier, the UN announced plans to build its own fence to improve security around its New York headquarters.
Israel is Forced to Act
The Palestinians committed themselves in the Oslo accords and in the road map to dismantle terrorist networks and confiscate illegal weapons. After more than 10 years of negotiations, and a mounting toll of Israeli civilian casualties, however, it became clear to the Israeli people that the Palestinian Authority (PA) made a strategic choice to use terror to achieve its aims and that something had to be done to protect the civilian population.
“It obliges us to establish a barrier wall which is the only thing that can minimize the infiltration of these male and female suicide bombers,” said Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, who has emphasized that “the fence is not political, [and] is not a border.”
Some Israelis oppose the fence either because they fear it will constitute a recognition of the 1949 armistice line as a final border. Jews living in the West Bank, beyond the planned route of the fence, in particular, argue that they are now being left relatively unprotected and worry that they might be forced to relocate behind the fence if it does become a political border in the future.
Making Terrorism More Difficult
Before the construction of the fence, and in many places where it has not yet been completed, a terrorist need only walk across an invisible line to cross from the West Bank into Israel. No barriers of any kind exist, so it is easy to see how a barrier, no matter how imperfect, won't at least make the terrorists' job more difficult. Approximately 75 percent ofthe suicide bombers who attacked targets inside Israel came from across the border where the first phase of the fence was built.
During the 34 months from the beginning of the violence in September 2000 until the construction of the first continuous segment of the security fence at the end of July 2003, Samaria-based terrorists carried out 73 attacks in which 293 Israelis were killed and 1950 wounded. In the 11 months between the erection of the first segment at the beginning of August 2003 and the end of June 2004, only three attacks were successful, and all three occurred in the first half of 2003.
Since construction of the fence began, the number of attacks has declined by more than 90%. The number of Israelis murdered and wounded has decreased by more than 70% and 85%, respectively, after erection of the fence.
Even the Palestinian terrorists have addmitted the fence is a deterrent. On November 11, 2006, Islamic Jihad leader Abdallah Ramadan Shalah said on Al-Manar TV the terrorist organizations had every intention of continuing suicide bombing attacks, but that their timing and the possibility of implementing them from the West Bank depended on other factors. “For example,” he said, “there is the separation fence, which is an obstacle to the resistance, and if it were not there the situation would be entirely different.”
The success of the anti-terrorist fence in Samaria means that the launching point for terrorists has been moved to Judea, where there is not yet a continuous fence.
A High-Tech Fence
Although critics have sought to portray the security fence as a kind of "Berlin Wall," it is nothing of the sort. First, unlike the Berlin Wall, the fence does not separate one people, Germans from Germans, and deny freedom to those on one side. Israel's security fence separates two peoples, Israelis and Palestinians, and offers freedom and security for both. Second, while Israelis are fully prepared to live with Palestinians, and 20 percent of the Israeli population is already Arab, it is the Palestinians who say they do not want to live with any Jews and call for the West Bank to be judenrein. Third, the fence is not being constructed to prevent the citizens of one state from escaping; it is designed solely to keep terrorists out of Israel. Finally, only a tiny fraction of the total length of the barrier (less than 3% or about 10 miles) is actually a 30 foot high concrete wall, and that is being built in three areas where it will prevent Palestinian snipers from around the terrorist hotbeds of Kalkilya and Tul Karm from shooting at cars as they have done for the last three years along the Trans-Israel Highway, one of the country's main roads. The wall also takes up less space than the other barriers, only about seven feet, so it did not have a great impact on the area where it was built.
Most of the barrier will be a chain-link type fence similar to those used all over the United States combined with underground and long-range sensors, unmanned aerial vehicles, trenches, landmines and guard paths. Manned checkpoints will constitute the only way to travel back and forth through the fence. The barrier is altogether about 160 feet wide in most places.
The land used in building the security fence is seized for military purposes, not confiscated, and it remains the property of the owner. Legal procedures are already in place to allow every owner to file an objection to the seizure of their land. Moreover, property owners are offered compensation for the use of their land and for any damage to their trees.
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