About three weeks ago, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced that physical barriers would be placed at key spots along the “Green Line” — separating pre-1967 Israel from Judea and Samaria. The implementation of the “separation” plan began last month, with Israel Defense Forces engineering corps setting obstacles in place and digging trenches between PA-controlled Tul Karem and the heavily populated, and often targeted, Netanya region. The second stage of construction includes the erection of an electric fence on the borders of population centers in Israel. More ambitiously, on April 29, 2002, Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said that within two years a fence will be erected along the entire length of the country. Often referred to as the “wall” and supported by much of the Israeli Left and some of the Right, along with some prominent members of the defense establishment, the fences and barriers between Israel and Judea, Samaria and Gaza are meant to provide (some) Israelis with a greater measure of security from terrorist infiltrators. The “wall,” however, is a false panacea, much like the Oslo Accords were before it, for both tactical and strategic reasons.
“There is nothing more foolish than to build walls of this nature, as history has shown us time and again,” according to Dr. Aryeh Stav, director of the Ariel Center for Policy Research. “The Maginot Line, the Great Wall of China, and others were truly impenetrable by the standards of the times in which they were built — yet collapsed totally at the moment that they were really needed.” He called the idea that a fence will stop terrorism “total self-delusion.” Stav, and others, have pointed out the painfully obvious fact that the fences along Israel’s border with Egypt have been notoriously porous when it comes to preventing the smuggling of weapons and ammunition to the Palestinian Authority. Similarly, the fence along Israel’s northern border failed to prevent the kidnapping of three soldiers patrolling the perimeter, nor did it prevent the fatal March 12th terrorist attack that took place near Kibbutz Metzubah in the Galilee, carried out by Lebanese infiltrators. It also failed to shield Israel from more than 1,000 rockets fired by the Hezbollah in the month of April.
Arab thinkers themselves have made it clear that the wall is merely another challenge to be overcome in their struggle against the Jewish State. The Egyptian Al-Wafd newspaper proclaimed, “Here is another Berlin Wall being established, not in Germany but in Palestine.” Calling the wall a “public inauguration of the apartheid regime that is to be established in Palestine,” Knesset member Azmi Bishara, writing in the Lebanese as-Safir, openly advocated the adoption of a strategy by the PLO that “makes the occupation costly for the occupier, while allowing the population under occupation to sustain that resistance in the long term.” In other words, if the Arab world adopts Bishara’s line of thinking, the Israeli implementation of passive defense against terrorist attacks will only precipitate redoubled efforts to perpetrate such attacks. The Hezbollah may well serve as the model in such a scenario, as occurred after Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon.
The comments of Knesset member Bishara and Al-Wafd actually point to another, deeper problem with the planned Israeli defenses. Both the Berlin Wall and apartheid created artificial separation where there was no natural one and both ultimately crumbled. Similarly, the 1967 “Green Line” is not a natural boundary, it merely delineates the armistice lines of the 1948 War of Independence. A fence along an almost arbitrary line down the middle of one natural geographic unit will not hold up over time, as the two sides of the line are naturally interdependent. This can be seen most acutely in the organic unification of the Arab municipalities of Baka al-Gharabiya in pre-’67 Israel and Baka al-Sharakiya in the administered territories. Many Arab villages along the “Green Line” are dependent on Jewish communities on the other side of the line for much of their income, and many Arabs throughout Palestinian Authority areas work in pre-’67 Israel.
In implementing the “wall” Israel is also backpedaling away from its own policy in facing and defeating Arab aggression. It has returned to the age of the “Wall and Tower” settlements (homa umigdal), established to defend Jews from the violence of the 1936-39 nationwide Arab riots. The founders of Kibbutz Hanita in the western Galilee, one of 57 such Jewish settlements, “proposed they defend themselves by setting up a protective wall all around the settlement, by digging trenches and erecting towers for look-out posts.” While that may have been appropriate when the Jews were not in a position to exercise authority as a sovereign state, that period was to have ended a long time ago. Indeed, the Israeli military doctrine, until the implementation of the Oslo Accords, was quite different from the “Wall and Tower” mentality. Not dependent on passive defensive measures, the IDF took the battle to the enemy’s territory as quickly as possible, exacting a heavy price on the aggressor’s home turf.
David Raziel, commander in chief of the Irgun from 1937-1941, said it best 60 years ago, “If the objective of the war is to break the will of the enemy…we clearly cannot be content with defensive action.…Such a method of defense, which enables the enemy to attack as he sees fit and to retreat at will, to reorganize and to attack again — such defense is known as ‘passive defense’ and ends in defeat and ruin… he who does not wish to be defeated must attack.” The lack of a decisive, swift and overwhelming military response to PLO-backed terrorist attacks, from the very beginning of the “Oslo process,” along with the current construction of a “Great Wall of Israel,” indicate to the Arabs that the Jews are in retreat, locking the gates of the ghetto at night for fear of marauding pogromchiks. Unless that impression is quickly reversed, renewed and novel Arab attacks may turn the latest Israeli defensive measure into another “Wailing Wall.”