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The Security (Political) Fence

17 June 2002

By Yisrael Ne’eman

What began as a security issue has remained and become even more of a political issue, Israel’s unilateral ‘separation fence’ with the Palestinians.  What is most interesting is the opposition comes from three distinct sectors, the extreme left wing Peace Bloc, the Judea, Samaria and Gaza Council (known as the Yesha Council) representing the settlers across Israel’s old border and the Palestinian Authority led by Yasir Arafat.

The objective of the fence and accompanying patrol road is to severely curtail terror activity originating in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), especially suicide/homicide bombers who explode themselves in city centers such as Netanya, Hadera and Tel Aviv.  The fence is expected to be a serious obstacle to terror if it is patrolled and monitored correctly with the ability to stop a vehicle from crashing through.  It remains to be seen if the fence will be of the type on Israel’s border with Lebanon.  Many are skeptical. 

The fence is a political statement despite vehement denials by Israeli Defense Minister Ben Eliezer who speaks of it only in the security sense.  Such a unilateral mark of separation between Israelis and Palestinians may very well become a border between Israel and a future Palestinian state.  In the meantime authorization was only given for a patrol road of 115 kilometers in the northern and central Samaria area with the line often corresponding to Israel’s pre-67 boundaries and at times veering eastwards to include Jewish developments just across the old frontier.

The Peace Bloc led by former Knesset Member Uri Avineri believes in full cooperation and coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians and therefore no fence is necessary since it is only an ‘obstacle’ to ‘peace’ and ‘love between nations.’  The Peace Bloc is only a tiny fringe group with no real following except in certain media ranks.

Yesha is much more serious, representing over 200,000 Jews who have settled across the old border.  They also have backing from hundreds of thousands of Israelis living within the 1967 borders and are represented by the right wing Knesset factions and the National Religious Party.  Last week the Yesha council announced they supported the establishment of a fence for security reasons, this week they are in opposition, claiming the fence will be completely ineffective and has never stopped any terror activity.  This despite the fact that no bombers have crossed into Israel from the fenced in Gaza Strip.

Truth be known, the direction of the fence in southern Samaria where most settlers live, has not yet been decided.  The more Israeli developments across the old border to be included inside the fence, the more they and their supporters will be divided in opinion.  If the vast majority are to be west of the fence and included ‘within’ Israel this may very well moderate some members of the settler movement, possibly leading to a split. 

Arafat and the PA are completely opposed to the fence, calling it “fascist”.  Were it to run along Israel’s old border PA spokesman said they “might” accept it.  As it stands they talk of Israel “annexing” Palestinian areas to the west of the fence.  More important is what is not said.  It will make suicide and car bombings much more difficult and be the beginnings of a Palestine-Israel border.  These are not the 1967 borders Arafat officially demands and this is in part his excuse for attacking the establishment of the fence.  One can expect terror attacks against those building the fence.  Arafat wants the destruction of Israel, not a two-state solution and the new unilateral boundary forces him into his mini-state and away from his ultimate goal.

The fence has both a political and security purpose, setting a path towards the future.  Over the next few months it will be one of the main topics of discussion in the Palestinian - Israeli context.

And it will be tested for its effectiveness in battling terrorism.