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Summer 2004  
Vol. 32, No. 4


by Meir Pa'il

he construction of an approximately 400-mile security barrier between the "West Bank" (Judea and Samaria) and the State of Israel is intended, according to Israeli government claims, to stop, or at least minimize, the continuous penetration of Arab Palestinian murderers.

Yet even the barrier's staunchest supporters do not believe it will succeed in stopping every suicide bomber. Here and there, Arabs, men and women, will sneak through the barrier's gates by posing as laborers or by digging tunnels; or will smuggle through the Jordanian borders (at the south, somewhere between the Dead Sea and Eilat, or in the north somewhere between the Sea of Galilee and Beit Shean). Moreover, the fence cannot defend Israelis from mortars or primitive missiles fired from the West Bank. Historically, strategic walls simply have not worked: neither the Great Chinese Wall nor the Roman Hadrian Wall in northern England nor the Berlin Wall could put a stop to determined invaders or infiltrators. All three are monuments to human shortsightedness. Therefore, from a military point of view, the fence is a bad investment.

Why, then, undertake such a costly project at a time when Israel's economy is in a sad state? The unspoken justification is political. The Israeli government is imposing a de facto new border that replaces the "Green Line," which had been established in 1949 under the auspices of the United Nations and served as the border between Israel and Jordan until the 1967 Six-Day War. About half of the fence is being constructed east of the "Green Line," and it is enveloping the whole of Jerusalem from the east by cutting through the Palestinian township of Abu Dis. Eventually it will encircle the whole of the Old City of Jerusalem, plus most of the Arab built-up area of Jerusalem around the Old City, as well as some nearby Arab Palestinian neighborhoods.

We Jews posses a legitimate claim to Jerusalem; so too do Christians and Moslems. Thus we must reject the building of a barrier that isolates Jerusalem from Moslems and Christians who live on the city's northern, eastern, and southern periphery. It is unwise, even dangerous, to cut them off from their holy places and most of their sources of livelihood.

True, the Palestinian leadership has not done enough to stop the murderous campaign of terrorism against Israel and therefore must be held accountable, in part, for the failure to find a just and equitable solution to the conflict. But these leaders were correct when they argued before the International Court of Justice in The Hague that the placement of the barrier is causing serious disruptions to the lives of thousands of Palestinians and is a major stumbling block to achieving a viable future Palestinian state.

Constructing fences and walls east of the "Green Line" is pouring fuel on the fire of the very hatred that brought us to this sad state of affairs in the first place. When the barrier is completed, it will not be a symbol of security, but of absurdity.

The academic director of the Galilee Center for Defense Studies since 1985, Colonel Meir Pa'il has served as chief of the Department of Operational and Combat Doctrine in the Supreme High Command; commander of the Israeli Defense Forces Central Officers College; a member of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) and M.K.; and the author of A Palestinian State Alongside Israel, Humane Military Leadership, and Combat & Operational Doctrine. He is also one of the founders of Peace Now and The Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace.

First Place Award Winner for Excellence in Jewish Journalism
and a Benefit of Membership in a Union Congregation

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