By Vic Rosenthal
Lately, construction of the security fence has been slowed by environmental issues, budgetary problems, and the ever-popular legal challenges. This is unfortunate, because there is good reason to believe that the fence, where it has been completed, has been successful in reducing terrorist infiltrations.
In 2006 there were only two successful suicide bombings, compared to 5, 7, 18, and 62 (!) in preceding years. That is not to say that the terrorists are not trying: in 2006, security forces arrested 187 ‘potential’ bombers compared to 96 in 2005 (all figures from McClatchy Washington Bureau).
The Israeli military attributes the decline in successful attacks in part to the fence. By making large amounts of the border between Israel and the territories impassable, the army and police can concentrate their limited forces in unfenced areas. I’ve heard first-hand anecdotes from security personnel which confirm this.
Palestinians and pro-Palestinian organizations have vehemently objected to the construction of the fence, calling it an ‘apartheid wall’, and claiming that it damages Palestinians’ livelihoods. Israel of course feels that some inconvenience to the Palestinians is justified if the fence saves lives by preventing attacks; and in any event, that it has adequate mechanisms for solving problems of Palestinians affected by the fence.
A successful peace agreement with the Palestinians, if such a thing is possible, can not come about when Israel is under continuous terrorist threat. Israel must do whatever is needed to neutralize the threat before trying to negotiate. Otherwise, any concessions made are seen as responses to blackmail and simply encourage more terrorism.
The fence is a highly effective and non-lethal tool against terrorism. Israel should allocate the necessary resources and finish it.