ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | The Fence as a Successful Tool 3.3.04

The Fence as a Successful Tool

03 March 2004

By Yisrael Ne'eman

I beg to differ with EC's position in his article The Failed Fence (Feb. 27, 2004) on several levels. Before getting into the major issues, let it be repeated that EC's usage of the pronoun "we" does not obligate this writer, but is rather is his writing style..

A serious security fence which can prevent infiltrators is a blessing, but like any tool must be used correctly. No doubt the fence, and in several, more urban settings, the concrete barriers erected, are fixed structures. Such fixed positions apparently have halted terror attacks, especially in the 110 kilometer first stage from Kfar Salem near Afula to Elkana, just east of Petach Tikvah. Since completed several months ago, the region to the west of the fence, including Tel Aviv, Netanya and Hadera have suffered no terror attacks. Palestinians planning suicide-homicide bombings, but incarcerated in the planning stages, have made it known their frustration at not being able to surmount the fence. Amos Yaron, a former general who is still heavily involved in security planning, has called the barrier a 100% success.

True, Yaron and others have overplayed their hand, since shots have been fired over the fence and there are terror attacks occurring where the fence does not yet exist. For the West Bank fence to really be tested, it will have to be fully completed.

EC writes of the latest attack in Gaza across the concrete wall at the Erez Industrial Zone crossroads. The fence, as a barrier, is being blamed for tactical mistakes made by soldiers and commanders on the ground. Sgt. Major Zimmerman, who was killed, should never have been patrolling such a volatile area alone. There should also be mobile forces scouting out beyond the walls perimeter.

The fence must be seen as only half of the Israeli tactical game, mainly as a barrier eliminating the vast possibilities of cross border raids. No fence is hermetic. On the other hand it is imperative for the army to deal in pre-emptive defense. Threats from the Palestinian side must be eliminated before they get to the fence. Ambushes from the ground or air are at least part of the answer.

In personal discussions with EC we agree on the settling in of "frozen thinking", whereby the security forces will depend only on the fence for defense and not think in terms of cross border activity to keep the enemy off balance. Force must be projected beyond the barrier into the Palestinian areas, but without a permanent presence.

Furthermore, such a heavy structure will keep out illegal workers and their families, tens of thousands of whom have settled in Israel and represent a security and demographic threat. Such a disgruntled population remaining on their side may eventually apply enough pressure on Yasir Arafat and the Palestinian Authority or any of the international groups threatening intervention, to force positive change. In the end, the fence will be on the international border.

The fence is only a tool, and as such one must be trained to use it correctly. Israels populace must understand that for the fence to work, offensive measures will be taken as well, meaning on the other side of the frontier.