Along much of the frontier separating Israel from the West Bank, there are
either no barriers of any kind, or easily avoidable ones. In response
to dozens of suicide bombings,
and daily terrorist attacks against its civilians, Israel decided to construct a security
fence near the “Green
Line” to prevent Palestinian terrorists from infiltrating
Israel did not want to build a fence, and resisted
doing so for more than 35 years. If anyone is to blame for the construction,
it is Hamas, Islamic
Jihad, and the other Palestinian terrorists.
Now a large majority of Israelis support the construction of the security
fence; in fact, both Jews and Arabs living along the Green Line favor
the barrier to prevent penetration by thieves and vandals as well as
terrorists. The fence has also caused a revolution in the daily life
of some Israeli Arab towns because it has brought quiet, which has allowed
a significant upsurge in economic activity.
The security fence does create some inconvenience to
Palestinians, but it also saves lives. The deaths of Israelis caused
by terror are permanent and irreversible whereas the hardships faced
by the Palestinians are temporary and reversible.
It is not unreasonable or unusual to build a fence
for security purposes. Many other nations have fences to protect their
borders (the United States is building one now to keep out illegal Mexican
immigrants), and Israel already has fences along the frontiers with Lebanon, Syria,
and Jordan, so building a barrier
to separate Israel from the Palestinian
Authority is not revolutionary.
A security fence already exists around the Gaza
Strip and, to date, not one suicide bomber from that area has infiltrated
Israel, while approximately 250 came from the West
Bank in the last 33 months. Approximately 75 percent of the suicide
bombers who attacked targets inside Israel came from across the border
where the first phase of the fence was built.
The fence is not expected to be impregnable. It is
possible that some terrorists will manage to get past the barrier; nevertheless,
the obstacle will undoubtedly make it far more difficult for incursions
and thereby minimize the number of attacks. This is already evident
from data showing a 30% drop in the number
of terrorist attacks that took place in 2003 compared to 2002. Similarly, there was a 50% decrease in the number
of victims murdered by terrorists in 2003 compared to the previous year.
There were 17 suicide bomber attacks inside Israel that emanated from
the northern part (Samaria) of the West Bank during the months April-December
2002. In contrast, since construction began on the anti-terrorist fence,
throughout all of 2003 only 5 suicide bomber attacks emanated from the
same area. The value of the fence in saving lives is evident from the data: In 2002, the year before construction started, 457 Israelis were murdered; in 2009, 8 Israelis were killed.
Even the Palestinian terrorists
have addmitted the fence is a deterrent.
On November 11, 2006, Islamic
Jihad leader Abdallah Ramadan Shalah
said on Al-Manar
TV the terrorist organizations had every
intention of continuing suicide
bombing attacks, but that their timing
and the possibility of implementing them
from the West
Bank depended on other factors. “For
example,” he said, “there is
the separation fence, which is an obstacle
to the resistance, and if it were not there
the situation would be entirely different.”
Critics have complained that the fence is being built
beyond Israel's pre-1967 cease-fire line, but the so-called “Green
Line” was not an internationally recognized border, it was an
armistice line between Israel and Jordan pending the negotiation of
a final border. Building the fence along that line would have been a
political statement and would not accomplish the principal goal of the
barrier, namely, the prevention of terror. The route of the fence must
take into account topography, population density, and threat assessment
of each area. To be effective in protecting the maximum number of Israelis,
however, it must incorporate some of the settlements in the West Bank.
Most of the fence runs roughly along the Green Line.
The fence is about a mile to the east in three places that allows the
incorporation of the settlements of Henanit, Shaked, Rehan, Salit, and Zofim. The most significant deviation
from the pre-1967 line is a bulge of less than four miles around the
towns of Alfei Menashe and Elkanah where about 8,000 Jews live. In some
places, the fence is actually inside the “Green Line.”
Another place where it is necessary to deviate from
the 1967 border is near Ben-Gurion International Airport. The fence
must be placed far enough away from the airport to prevent terrorists
from threatening civilian aircraft. This requires a band of territory
of approximately six miles.
The updated route is to
run about 32 miles around Jerusalem,
but only 25 percent has been completed.
The government has set September 1, 2005,
as the deadline for completing the Jerusalem
barrier. An estimated 55,000 Jerusalem
Arabs from four neighborhoods are expected
to be on the Palestinian side of the fence
while 180,000 Arab residents of the city
remain on the Israeli side of the barrier.
Thousands of Arabs
moved to more central East Jerusalem neighborhoods
to stay on the Israeli side of the fence.
Representatives of some Arab neighborhoods
have gone so far as to petition the Israeli Supreme
Court to order the Defense Ministry to
reroute the fence to be on the
To alleviate the inconvenience
caused by the fence around Jerusalem, the
government approved passages
through the barrier to facilitate movement
in and out of the city. In addition, the
government allocated millions of dollars
for the municipality to provide special services
to Arab residents of Jerusalem who will be
adversely affected by the fence.
The original route was 458 miles; however, the plan has been repeatedly modified. As a result of the June 2004 Supreme Court decision, the route was altered to move the barrier closer to the 1967 cease-fire line and to make it less burdensome to the Palestinians. The fence is now expected to cover approximately 500 miles and incorporate just 7 percent of the West Bank — less than 160 square miles — on its “Israeli side,” while 2,100 square miles will be on the “Palestinian side.” To date, more than 320 miles of the fence has been completed, but little progress has been made in the last three years.
The land used in building the security fence is seized
for military purposes, not confiscated, and it remains the property
of the owner. Legal procedures are already in place to allow every owner
to file an objection to the seizure of their land. Moreover, property
owners are offered compensation for the use of their land and for any
damage to their trees. Contractors are responsible for carefully uprooting
and replanting the trees. So far, more than 60,000 olive trees have
been relocated in accordance with this procedure.
The Bush Administration
was resistent to the idea of including
the second largest Jewish settlement, Ariel,
because it would require the fence to extend
about 12 miles into the West
Bank. Excluding Ariel, however, places
about 20,000 Jews who have already been
subject to multiple terrorist attacks to
further danger. Israel decided to build
a fence around Ariel, but said in February
2005 it would be incoporated within the
main fence at a later stage.
Every effort is being made to exclude Palestinian villages
from the area within the fence and no territories are being annexed.
The land used in building the security fence is seized for military
purposes, not confiscated, and it remains the property of the owner.
Israel is providing agricultural passageways to allow farmers to continue
to cultivate their lands, and crossing points to allow the movement
of people and the transfer of goods. Contractors are responsible for
carefully uprooting and replanting the trees. So far, more than 60,000
olive trees have been relocated in accordance with this procedure.
Legal procedures allow every owner to file an objection
to the seizure of their land. In addition, Israel has budgeted $22 million
to compensate Palestinians for the use of their land. As of September,
Palestinians had filed $2.2 million in compensation claims.
Despite Israel's best efforts, the fence has caused
some injury to residents near the fence. Israel’s Supreme
Court took up the grievances of Palestinians and ruled that the construction of the security fence is consistent with international
law and was based on Israel’s security requirements rather than
political considerations. It also required the government to move the
fence in the area near Jerusalem to make things easier for the Palestinians.
Though the Court’s decision made the government’s
job of securing the population from terrorist threats more difficult,
costly, and time-consuming, the Prime Minister immediately accepted
the decision and began to reroute the fence and to factor the Court’s
ruling into the planning of the rest of the barrier.
Palestinians continue to
challenge the route of the fence and the
Court has issued a number of decisions, some
favoring the existing route and others, the
petitioners. For example, in June 2006, the
Court ordered Israel to tear down a two-mile
stretch of fence around Zufin, a settlement
near the West
Bank town of Kalkilya and reroute it
to accommodate Palestinians in the area.
The Palestinians will also benefit from the fence
because it will reduce the need for Israeli military operations in the
territories, and the deployment of troops in Palestinian towns. Onerous
security measures, such as curfews and checkpoints, will either be unnecessary
or dramatically scaled back. The fence may also stimulate the Palestinians
to act against the enemies of peace because the barrier has shown them
there is a price to pay for sponsoring terrorism.
Only a tiny fraction of the barrier (less than 3% or
about 15 miles) is actually a 30 foot high concrete wall, and that is
being built in specific locations where it will prevent Palestinian
snipers from shooting at cars as they have done for the last three years
along the Trans-Israel Highway, one of the country's main roads. The
remainder is a fence similar to that used throughout the United States,
but with a network of barriers, underground and long-range sensors,
unmanned aerial vehicles, trenches, land mines and guard paths. Passage
through the fence will only be permitted through guarded gates.
A growing number of Israelis have come to the conclusion
that the best solution to the conflict with the Palestinians is separation.
Once the fence is completed, Israel could decide to unilaterally
withdraw behind the fence. Should Israel take unilateral action, the
fence still need not demarcate a permanent political border. The Palestinians
could negotiate a settlement whereby the fence would be moved or torn
down. If the Palestinians live in peace with Israel, people and goods
could flow freely back and forth; however, if the Palestinians remained
committed to violence and unwilling to coexist with their Israeli neighbors,
the barrier could be sealed.
Palestinians complain that the fence creates “facts
on the ground,” but most of the area incorporated within the fence
is expected to be part of Israel in any peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Israeli negotiators have always envisioned the future border to be the
1967 frontier with modifications to minimize the security risk to Israel
and maximize the number of Jews living within the State.
Palestinian charges that
a fence would have the effect of creating
a ghetto are nonsense. Prime Minister Sharon accepted the establishment of a contiguous
Palestinian state on their side of the barrier.
After the fence is finished, Israel will have to decide
whether to allow Jews to remain in communities
on the “wrong” side of the fence (where they would not
benefit from the security the fence provides), offer them compensation
to move, or forcibly evacuate them to the Israeli side.
The security fence is expected
to run approximately 500 miles. The fence
will snake just east of the pre-1967 border
and incorporate the largest Jewish cities
in the West
As of July 2009,
only about 300 miles (60%) of the barrier
and much of the rest was tied
up by petitions to the Israeli Supreme
Court and Justice Ministry deliberations.
According to the Jerusalem Post, work
is now being done on mostly constructed sections
of the fence and areas that have to be rerouted
in response to court rulings. The number
of fully completed sections has not increased
in 15 months and the barrier's overall length
has increased by only about 25 miles in the
last two years. The Defense Ministry previously
projected the fence would be completed by
2010, but now it does not give an end date.
The United States is building
a fence along part of its border with Mexico
and that is to prevent illegal immigrants
from coming into the country, not terrorists
who seek to murder American citizens. Ironically,
which passed a resolution condemning Israel’s
barrier, is building its own fence to improve
security around its New York headquarters.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu unveiled a proposal to surround Israel with a security fence in February 2016, stating that Israel needed to protect itself from Palestinian and terrorist infiltration. The Prime Minister received criticism from world leaders as he referred to citizens of Israel's neighboring countries as well as Palestinians as "wild beasts." Netanyahu described the border project as a multi-year plan to surround all of Israel with security fences. The Prime Minister made the announcement while visiting a newly constructed fence between Israel and Jordan in February 2015, and also said that the Israeli government would be looking to permanently fix gaps in the current seperation wall. Education Minister Naftali Bennett expressed disdain for Netanyahu's proposal, explaining “the prime minister spoke today about how fences are needed. We are wrapping ourselves in fences. In Australia and New Jersey there is no need for fences.”