Obstacle To Terrorism
After nearly three years of Palestinian terrorism, including 122 successful suicide bombings originating in the West Bank, Israel is building a security fence along its porous border with the West Bank.
Nearly 70 percent of the Israeli population, from across the political spectrum, say they support the fence as a means to improving security along Israel’s border with the West Bank, according to a June poll by Tel Aviv University’s Peace Project. The Labor Party, under the leadership of former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, originally posed the idea of the fence after the Palestinian leadership rejected unprecedented Israeli peace offers and launched the violence against Israel. Today, the Labor Party’s support for the fence is coupled with backing by the Likud-led government of Ariel Sharon.
The fence is a necessary measure to prevent terrorist attacks.
While Israel continues to look to the Palestinian Authority (PA) to dismantle terrorist groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the Jewish state is taking its own steps to thwart attacks by constructing the fence, a defensive physical obstacle to terror. “This fence is aimed at preventing terrorist attacks and attempts to torpedo the peace process,” Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said during a recent visit to Washington.
A fence between Gaza and Israel similar to the one being constructed along the West Bank has proven an effective tool in fighting terrorism. Not one of the suicide bombers that have killed 454 Israelis in the past three years infiltrated through the Gaza fence.
Israel is working to minimize the fence’s impact on the Palestinians.
The security fence under construction should to a large extent negate the need for the IDF to carry out military action against terrorists in civilian areas, which has led to the injury and deaths of some non-combatants. Having a fence as a security buffer would also reduce the number of IDF soldiers within Palestinian cities and towns and would serve to minimize the uses of curfews and other security measures, according to the IDF.
In instances where the construction of the security fence has separated Palestinian farmers from their fields, Israel has begun creating dozens of agricultural passageways to enable the farmers to tend to their crops. Additionally, more than 60,000 olive trees that lay in the path of the security fence have been uprooted and replanted in areas designated by Palestinian farmers so that the trees would not be damaged by Israel’s construction of the security buffer.
Israel, furthermore, is taking into account concerns voiced by U.S. officials regarding possible future locations for additional sections of the security fence.
Israel is expected to finish the first two stages of the fence by year’s end.
So far, Israel has approved two sections of the fence, both of which run close to the former “Green Line” border. Stage A, which is near completion, runs 90 miles from the northern tip of the West Bank to east of Tel Aviv. Stage B, which should be finished by the end of 2003, stretches 60 miles southeast from the northern tip of the West Bank.
More than 90 percent of the Israeli security fence, built at a cost of $1.6 million per mile, could be more accurately described as a series of obstacles against terrorists. On the eastern side of the fence, which is outfitted with electronic sensors to detect infiltrators, there is barbed wire and a ditch to prevent cars from charging the fence. A dirt road to enable border police to carry out patrols abuts the fence. On the Israeli side is a swath of fine sand, which would enable Israel to track infiltrators who got by the first lines of defense, a paved road for patrols, barbed wire, and mounted video surveillance cameras.
Along only three sections of the security fence, Israel has built large, concrete barricades. Accounting for less than 10 percent of the entire defensive obstacle, these walls are built right on the former “Green Line” near centers of Palestinian terrorism. Walls have been built near Qalqilya and Tulkarm, hotbeds of Islamic terrorism that have produced dozens of Palestinian suicide bombers. The barricades have been built next to these cities because terrorists have used the areas as bases to carry out sniper attacks against Israeli motorists driving along the Trans-Israel Highway, one of the country’s main travel arteries. A wall also separates the Israeli town of Matan from the Palestinian town Habla. Terrorists in Habla have used the upper floors of buildings in the town to shoot into the homes of Israelis in Matan.
The Palestinian town of Qalqilya, which sits adjacent to the Israeli town of K’far Saba, is the only major Palestinian population area that will have a defensive physical obstacle installed around its perimeter under currently approved plans for the fence. During times of calm, residents will be able to travel east into the West Bank via the major road out of the city without any security checkpoints. So-called enclaves such as Qalqilya will only affect 2 percent of Palestinians living in the West Bank. Contrary to some reports, no final decisions have been made about the placement of future sections of the fence.
The security fence can be moved or removed to meet a future peace deal.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said that the “fence is not a political border, it is not a security border, but rather another means to assist in the war on terror.” As such, Israel has repeatedly stated its willingness to move or remove the fence as part of a Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement.
In the past, Israel has been willing to move fences, even elaborate and expensive ones such as this security barrier. Along the border with Lebanon, where a high-tech fence equipped with surveillance cameras and sensors closely monitors the situation, Israel has moved sections of fence more than a dozen times in order to implement its U.N.-certified withdrawal from Lebanon.
Israel has maintained that the security fence will be an obstacle to terrorism, but not to an agreement with the Palestinians. “I do not believe that the routing of the fence can prevent a real accord,” said Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “A fence can always be moved.”
Source: Near East Report, (July 28, 2003)