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Converging Issues and Temporary Semi-Paralysis

09 March 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

By the end of last week three major issues were converging in Israel.

In the wake of the Haifa bus bombing everyone was reminded terrorism still exists, even if there was no major attack inside Israel’s 1967 borders since the beginning of January.  Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz explained that 95% of terror attempts were stopped before they reached their deadly end.  Unfortunately this is still not good enough and the country cannot be hermetically sealed.

The new Likud led (40 seats) government is supposedly right wing despite Shinui as a coalition partner but is hamstrung when dealing with Palestinian terror.  No major military actions can be taken against Palestinian terrorism (such as an invasion of Gaza) until after the American operation in Iraq, and no one knows when and if such a move will take place.   Left and Right are in agreement on the necessity to demolish terrorism, and the security forces are doing their utmost within the political/diplomatic parameters forced on it.  Conclusion:  In the war against terror there is no real difference between a left wing or right wing government.

Iraq is the major world issue at the moment.  The outcome of Saddam Hussein’s removal or not will have a direct effect on Palestinian – Israeli relations, Palestinian and world terrorism.  Everyone is waiting.

So that brings everyone back to the famous security fence.  Over 200 kilometers from the Gilboa to Elkana have been approved and planning calls for its completion by December.  But there are still wide gaps from Elkana in western Samaria to the Jerusalem area with no defined fence location as is much of the area south of the capital.  The Jerusalem area is also being planned.  Those areas with no fence are a checkerboard of Jewish and Arab towns with no conclusion where to affix the barrier.  In 2004 infiltration can be expected to come from these areas.

No decision to plan and complete the entire fence can be sought from a government waiting to see what will happen with the Iraqis.  Should Israel start negotiating with the Palestinians one can expect the National Religious party and the National Union – Yisrael Beitainu to leave the government and be replaced by Labor.  The fence direction is very much a political decision as it may very well be a determining factor in Israel’s final borders.

At the moment Israel can neither respond with a full - scale military operation against Palestinian terror nor build an entire length security fence.  Call it temporary semi – paralysis.