The Fence

After construction began on the security fence, the usual suspects started screaming bloody murder: Apartheid segregation wall! Ethnic cleansing! Bantustans! Land grab!

I realized the significance of this immediately. The fence, if effective, would take away the Palestinians’ best weapon, terrorism or the threat of terrorism. No wonder that Israel-haters like Noam Chomsky, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, the International Solidarity Movement, etc. were livid!

And as a matter of fact, it was effective. During the Second Intifada, a close friend of mine served in a special unit of the security forces. Their primary task was to intercept terrorists infiltrating from the territories. They travelled all over the country, day and night. They never saw their families, but they stopped far more bombers than got through. Some days there were literally dozens of alerts.

And as the security fence was built, their job got easier. The suicide bombers and others could not cross where the fence was finished, so they had to go around it. It was easier to patrol the open areas than the whole border. But there still were some infiltrations from areas where the fence was not complete, and some of them were successful.

It would seem that finishing the fence is a no-brainer. No matter how good the Palestinians get at rocket science, it’s still easier, cheaper, and more accurate for the terrorist groups to send a dupe with an explosive belt than to hit something with a rocket. An unbroken fence might save dozens, or even hundreds of Israeli lives if it prevents a handful of suicide bombings.

So I was extremely disheartened to read the following:

Not a single kilometer of the West Bank security fence has been completed in the past four months…

This week, the Defense Ministry told three contractors with signed agreements worth NIS 100 million not to begin scheduled work on the fence in the South Hebron Hills – due to lack of funds…

Last year, the Defense Ministry completed 102 km. of the fence. Some 10 months into 2007, however, only an additional 48 km. – just 6 percent of the entire planned route of the fence – have been completed…

Earlier this year, the estimated target date for the project’s completion was moved from 2008 to 2010 – meaning it will take the government eight years to build the fence which was first approved by the cabinet in 2002. — Jerusalem Post

Is there actually a lack of funds? Of course the Defense Ministry has many expensive projects, such as developing anti-missile systems, countering new Russian weapons in the hands of Hezbollah, and rebuilding ground forces decimated by years of neglect. Like everything, it’s a question of priorities, and for some reason the government does not give this a high priority.

Could it be that the reason is political? Could it be that the campaign by the Palestinians and their friends to help them keep their best, cheapest, most accurate weapon have borne fruit, perhaps via the US State Department?

Maybe the Defense Ministry is simply tired of the hundreds of legal challenges to the route of the fence?

It’s too important for that. My suggestion is that the existing parts of the fence should be left where they are for the time being, to be revisited after the rest is complete. The Ministry should be flexible about the proposed route, but speed of construction needs to be a priority.

A leaky bucket is better than no bucket, but an intact one is better still.

Fence Statistics

(courtesy of Jewish Virtual Library)

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