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Re-politicizing the Security Fence

16 August 2002

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Until its final direction was decided upon the whole issue of the ‘security fence’ was shrouded in half truths and much disinformation, apparently in an effort to avoid extreme Left and Right pressures within the National Unity Government.  At the beginning of the week it was reported widely that the barrier would be almost identical to Israel’s 1967 border with the West Bank.  Now the final line for the first 110 kms (about 70 miles) will include several Jewish developments just a few kilometers across the old border, yet exclude many who are ten or so kilometers to the east.

Three factors supposedly guided Israeli thinking concerning the fence.  The first was the military’s demand to obtain the best topographical advantages allowing for the greatest ability to defend the maximum amount of Jewish developments both within Israel’s 1967 borders and in the areas just adjacent to that line.  The second factor was to include as many Jewish developments across the old border as possible without being forced to include Arab villages as well.  Lastly the line appears to be a compromise between the left and right forces at work in the government with the Right wanting to keep as much as possible (even if it means absorbing quite a few Arabs) and the Left demanding the absolute minimum (or even the 1967 line), with an eye towards peace talks with the Palestinians in the future.

In the end the military issues do not appear to have been taken into consideration since the fence will meander between Jewish and Arab villages with topography given  much less a role than previously declared.  One now has a compromise with tens of thousands of Jews included west of the line but major settlements such as Karne Shomron and Emmanuel to the east.  In addition no one has decided how to continue south and east of Elkana since tens of thousands of Jews live on the road to the east, culminating at Ariel with approximately 20,000 residents.

So far the Left – Right compromise is limping along, at least for the next few months until there are state budget problems (January 1) and one needs to decide on a definite path for the rest of the barrier.  Labor or anyone else can quit the coalition over high profile issues such as the economy or the fence but the Knesset summer break and this recent ‘solution’ has postponed the battle.

The beginning of the week’s de-politicized fence issue became a political compromise, but only for the time being.