srael's fence is vital, and inevitable.
It is vital because Israel needs to cut itself off--not only from Palestinian terrorism, which has devastated Israel through the mass killings of Israeli civilians; but also from the Palestinian attempt to undermine, demographically, the existence of the Jewish nation state. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have entered Israel freely, and among them are about a hundred and fifty thousand Arabs who have gained Israeli citizenship, many through marrying Israeli women and having children.
Until very recently, we've had a situation I can only describe as absurd: We are probably the only country in the world that has essentially granted complete, free access to its worst enemies. People who are engaged in mass killing of Jews have free access into our streets, homes, bedrooms, and nurseries. This must stop, and it will stop. Israel will not exist if Palestinians are allowed to undermine it, and Israelis are not willing to commit national suicide. That is why the fence must be and shall be built.
Once the security barrier is finished, the number of casualties, particularly civilian casualties, from terrorism will drop sharply. The fence is ninety percent effective against suicide bombers. While suicide bombings constitute only two-thirds of one percent of the terrorist actions committed against Israel, they account for almost half the casualties, and for the majority of civilian casualties. So the first effect will be a decrease in Israeli casualties, particularly fatalities. The Palestinians will probably persist in terrorist actions against Israel, perhaps even increase them, but their ability to inflict Israeli fatalities will sharply decrease.
And there will be economic consequences. Israel's current economic crisis is largely due to the insecurity inside Israel resulting from Palestinian terrorism. Once the fence is complete and Israel is more secure, we will see a reversal of the downward economic trend that began with the war (the so-called intifada). Israel's GNP will multiply once Palestinian criminal activity, particularly against property, is tempered; tourism increases; and Israelis enjoy shopping freely once again
In a way, by building this fence, Israel is once again claiming its right to self-determination. Until recently--because of the unbelievable folly of the Oslo process--we became occupied by the Palestinians almost to the extent that the Palestinians are occupied by
Israel. The Palestinians have determined Israeli life; we have been largely dependent on their occasional willingness to suspend terrorism. After the fence is completed, the Israeli economy and therefore Israeli society will no longer depend on whether those who dispatch suicide bombers feel like blowing up buses or not. Also, since Oslo, the Palestinians have decided, through the Israeli voter, who will be prime minister of Israel. All they have needed to do is either increase or decrease terrorism, and this has largely determined the outcome of our elections. Since Palestinian "goodwill" has never existed, and is not expected--and since it is a major mistake for Israel's vital interests to depend on the goodwill of its worst enemy--this is what self-determination is all about--we are finally denying the Palestinians the ability to hold our lives hostage.
Thanks to unilateral disengagement and the fence, we are finally taking back our independence.
Dr. Dan Schueftan is senior fellow of the National Security Studies Center at the University of Haifa and senior fellow of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.
Copyright © 2004, Union for Reform Judaism