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David Miller: Israel’s Security Wall?

David Miller Online

What Are The Implications Of Israel’s Security Wall?

Only time will tell whether the decision by the Israeli government to build a security fence along the West Bank will prove the right one. There is a lot of debate within the Middle East and Israel itself over whether the wall will bring peace and security to Israel or whether it is simply a move out of desperation on the part of Ariel Sharon’s government. Is this new policy of physically dividing Jew from Arab simply a statement by the Israeli government that it cannot prevent Palestinian suicide attacks despite its powerful military? In other words, is this wall a symbol of failure?

Israel’s policy of military retaliation against the Palestinian Authority in the wake of the bombings has proved totally ineffective. After each attack, the Israeli military captures a tract of Palestinian territory and holds it for an unspecified amount of time. After each attack, the Sharon government goes on the political offensive claiming that Yasser Arafat and his government are the driving force behind the attacks and has refused to enter in talks with the PA. It is not hard to see the Israeli point of view that the Palestinian leadership has not done enough to prevent the bombers from entering into Israel. However it begs the question as to whether the PA can actually do anything about them and whether it has any real power left at all. Whatever your point of view and no matter which is actually closer to the truth, the bombers are still proving a devastating weapon.

Given this state of affairs, the decision to construct a barrier that can be patrolled and through which traffic can be monitored does not seem a bad idea. At least this way there is an actual physical barrier across what is clearly a porous and ill-defined borderline and it could prove its worth as a psychological barrier for the terrorists as well. Given the size and length of the wall, there may be the thought that it is too difficult to pass through in order to carry out an attack, thus the Israeli policy will have succeeded on two fronts.

The policy of erecting a physical barrier between the two people does just that: it creates a barrier. What Israel has done is start a process that will lend a large helping hand to those who wish to see the creation of two states. By actually defining a boundary line what has happened is that Israel has created a de facto border between themselves and the Palestinians and has sent out a message that there is the state of Israel on one side and the Palestinians on the other. Ariel Sharon may say otherwise and claim that it is merely a security precaution but his hawkish government will not remain in power forever and once those who are willing to allow the creation of a Palestinian state take office then this process towards two states will only intensify. The difference now is that they have a point from which to start.

I question the building of the wall for two reasons. First of all there is the issue of the Jewish settlements that will lie on the Palestinian side of the fence. It is going to prove increasingly difficult for the Israelis to try and exercise sovereignty over areas within the West Bank, especially if a Palestinian state is declared and recognised by the international community. The settlements where always going to prove a major sticking point for any final negotiations and no more so now with a wall that may become a border in place. Either the settlers accept Palestinian rule or they are dismantled and the settlers return to the 1967 borders. Both of which look unlikely to happen and there is going to be a situation where there are isolated enclaves within another country’s borders trying to follow their own laws and self-rule.

The second reason for questioning the wall is that I believe it not only creates a reservation type system for the Palestinians but also for the Israeli people themselves. Over the weekend I saw a CNN report that demonstrated the lengths to which Israel is going to seal its borders and my feeling was that by doing so it is turning itself into a large armed and fortified camp. No doubt there will be those who claim this is what is needed for security but I could not help thinking it was a shame to see it happening and that a nation feels it must live behind barbed wire to feel secure. Perhaps this will be the reason that the Israelis and Palestinians will try and find a future of peace and one where there is no need for walls of any kind. Until then the fence building will continue.

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