Mitchell Bard 
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© Mitchell Bard 2016

Walleye Vision

I went online to check the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s daily news the other day and was dismayed to see a photograph of “the wall.” It was the same type of photo that has appeared in most articles about the security barrier and it was disturbing because the picture presented a grossly distorted image that has created the broad misunderstanding of the project.

The JTA photo showed the wall from an angle that hid what was on either side. All you see is a big, ugly concrete structure surrounded by dirt that reinforces the Palestinian propaganda line that Israel is constructing a Berlin Wall along the West Bank to confine the Palestinian people into a ghetto.

In fact, of the 450-odd miles planned for the barrier, only about 12 miles are concrete, the other 97 percent of the barrier is a chain-link type fence that you see around swimming pools in the United States. Since every photo in the media shows the concrete barrier, however, the international community has gotten the false impression that Israel is building an “apartheid wall.”

Media distortions aside, it is legitimate to ask, “Why build a wall?”

When I was in Israel in November I got a firsthand look at THE WALL. It is indeed big and ugly, reminding me of the sound barriers that are being constructed along the Beltway here in Washington. I saw it while riding in a tour bus past the town of Qalqilya on one of the major highways from Jerusalem to the north of Israel.

Qalqilya is a large Arab town where terrorists could sit on rooftops before the construction of the wall and take potshots at folks like me driving in their cars on the highway. Because snipers used Israeli motorists for target practice, it was necessary to build a wall rather than a fence in that particular location. And why is the wall so high? Because if it was lower, cars would be protected from shooters, but not buses. The wall is designed to eliminate the shooting angles of snipers.

Of course the whole brouhaha over the fence is absurd. If you go to the border of Israel and Lebanon, what do you see? A fence! If you go to the border with Jordan, what do you see? A fence!

It’s not unreasonable to build barriers between peoples. The United States is building a fence to keep Mexicans out of the United States. And what physical threat do they pose to the lives of Americans? Similar fences are in Cyprus, Northern Ireland, Korea, and along the border of Pakistan and India. And where is the newest fence being built? Saudi Arabia! It seems the Saudis are concerned with terrorist infiltrators from Yemen.

Even if Israel negotiated a peace agreement with the Palestinians to create two states, it is possible a similar fence would be built for the same reason the ones exist on Israel’s other borders. Most Israelis would prefer not to have this scar on the landscape, but it does serve the primary purpose for which it is intended, deterring terrorism. It also performs a vital secondary security role that is rarely mentioned, namely, preventing illegal Arab immigration, which the Palestinians use as a strategic tactic to shift the demographic balance within Israel.

Is the fence perfect? No. It’s conceivable terrorists will find ways around, under, or over the fence. But this is also the danger with Israel’s other barriers. Without the fence, a terrorist faces no obstacles whatsoever, so does anyone really believe that a 10-foot high fence isn’t going to be better than nothing?

Israel already has the data to show the utility of the fence. The number of terrorist attacks that took place in 2003 declined 30% compared to 2002. Similarly, there was a 50% decrease in the number of victims murdered by terrorists in 2003 compared to the previous year. There were 17 suicide bomber attacks inside Israel that emanated from the northern part (Samaria) of the West Bank during the months April-December 2002. In contrast, since construction began on the fence, throughout all of 2003 only five suicide bomber attacks emanated from the same area. From that area where construction of the fence has not yet begun, namely the southern part (Judea) of the West Bank, no decrease in the number of terrorist attacks has been noted. Meanwhile, not a single terrorist has breached the fence surrounding the Gaza Strip.

The fence can also be a stimulus to peace because, like the settlements, it presents Palestinians with the harsh reality that time is not on their side, that if they do not act sooner rather than later, their state will be reduced to the size of a peanut. Had they accepted any plan offered to them from the 1937 Peel Plan to the Barak plan of 2000 they would have a larger state than the one they are now going to get. They still have a few months left to negotiate an agreement that would give them something approximating the Barak plan. Once the fence is completed; however, they will have a much more difficult time obtaining concessions, and they’ll have no one to blame but themselves.