Like Halevi, I abhor the idea of The Fence, but also like him I see it as necessary under the current circumstances. For me, it is necessary as a symbol more than as a deterrent to terror, which it may only marginally be:
- Fencing in the Jewish state, after all, mocks Zionism’s promise to free the Jews from the ghetto. And fencing out the Arab world violates the hope that Israel will one day find a cultural and spiritual place in the Middle East–a hope that once took me on a yearlong pilgrimage into mosques in Israel and the West Bank, as a way of connecting to my neighbors’ prayer lives. The fence ends more than three decades of Israeli attempts to reach out to the Middle East, from the “open bridges” policy across the Jordan River in the 1970s to the “good fence” on the northern border in the 1980s, through which Lebanese workers daily crossed into Israel.
….The argument for the fence, of course, is that it will save lives … Though more than 120 successful suicide bombers have crossed into Israel from the West Bank, not one has managed to cross from Gaza, which is surrounded by the same kind of formidable fence.
Beyond the security argument, though, what’s appealing about the fence is precisely what Israeli officials are trying to deny: its political message. Even more than a separation between Israelis and Palestinians, the fence is a demarcation line between the Oslo era of Israeli delusions and the post-Oslo era of Israeli realism. The fence embodies the lesson of this war: that the violent Palestinian rejection of peace three years ago wasn’t merely a setback on the way to a comprehensive settlement but the negation of a comprehensive settlement. September 2000 was an historic turning point as decisive as November 1947, when the Arab world rejected U.N. partition. To insist otherwise is to risk repeating the Oslo syndrome of Palestinian deception and Israeli self-deception … The fence, then, is Israel’s acknowledgment that the Palestinian leadership–in this generation at least–won’t honor any commitments to respect Israel’s legitimacy.
….The fence is a warning: If Palestinians don’t stop terrorism and forfeit their dream of destroying Israel, Israel may impose its own map on them. Indeed, the fence is a reminder that the 1967 border isn’t sacrosanct. Legally, the West Bank is extraterritorial: The international community didn’t recognize Jordan’s annexation, and, because Palestine isn’t being restored but invented, its borders are negotiable.
….The Oslo negotiations left the fate of Jerusalem for last, assuming that the joint administering of this fragile city would require a level of trust between Palestinians and Israelis possible only after a prolonged process of reconciliation. Precisely the opposite has happened. Thanks, ironically, to Oslo, which subjected the Palestinians to a decade of Palestinian Authority propaganda glorifying hatred of Israel–in schools, mosques, and the media–Palestinians are far less prepared for peace than they were before Oslo. The result of Palestinian hatred and Israeli mistrust is that sharing the administration
of Jerusalem has become untenable. Imagine the effect on the Jewish presence within the Old City today, for example, if Palestinian police were positioned on its walls. “Sharing” Jerusalem means dismembering it. A fence around Jerusalem, then, isn’t only a buffer against suicidal terrorists but against suicidal blueprints.
…. The war against Israel was initiated by the official Palestinian leadership with overwhelming popular support. According to one poll, 75 percent of Palestinians backed the recent suicide attack on Haifa’s Maxim restaurant, which murdered three generations of two Jewish families and five Israeli Arabs. In its very ugliness–a scar across an often-pastoral landscape–the fence is an apt expression of the Palestinians’ grotesque war. Palestinian society has been overtaken by a culture whose deepest longing isn’t for the creation of a state of its own but the destruction of the state of its neighbors. Indeed, according to another recent poll, 59 percent of Palestinians want to see terrorism against Israel continue even after the creation of a Palestinian state. The very hardships imposed by the fence are part of its message: When one society declares war against another society, there’s a price to pay. [New Republic]
And that is why there must be a fence until there is a sea change in Palestinian attitudes toward israel and peace, and until that change is reflected in new Palestinian leadership.