The wrong solution
By Daniel Gavron (Haaretz Today Online)
It is not often that I totally disagree with Haaretz's editorial, but today's plea for the swift completion of the security fence strikes me as uniquely ill-judged. There's not a scrap of evidence proving that the 42 percent of the barrier that has been built has prevented even one suicide bombing. The statistics quoted in the editorial are meaningless. If we are looking for a correlation between acts of terror and Israeli policy, it is no less logical to accept the claim of Benjamin Netanyahu that his tough, no-nonsense stance as prime minister sharply reduced terrorist actions. It's certainly true that during his term of office, there was a far lower rate of attrition.
In fact it has to be said that the highest rate of terrorist bombings was during the super-tough period of retaliation implemented by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz. It can be argued that the IDF campaign at that time encouraged motivation on the Palestinian side, but the sad fact is that the number of attacks depends on them, not us. If there are less attacks today than in the past, it's because the various forces in the Palestinian Authority territories are planning and executing less. It's a moot point whether this is a result of Israel's policy of incursions, arrests and targeted assassinations, but it's certainly not because of the separation fence.
It may be logical to argue that a completed fence will stop - or at least sharply reduce - terror attacks, but it is unconvincing, to say the least, to contend that making a terrorist travel a few kilometers to find a section of unprotected border can have any effect. Whether the route of the barrier is along the old Green Line or snakes surrealistically around the so-called "settlement blocs" is irrelevant. The concept is basically wrong.
The original sin of the fence is the unilateral approach: the concept that there is nobody to talk to. In the period immediately after the Six Day War, the idea of unilateral withdrawal was suggested by, among others, Yitzhak Ben-Aharon and Pinhas Lavon. After the Arab summit at Khartoum had decided on no peace, no recognition, and no negotiations with Israel, it made sense even though it was laughed out of court at the time. Now, 39 years later, it makes no sense at all.
Not only is there somebody to talk to now, but also that somebody has been desperately trying to talk to us for the past six years. It's true that after the Camp David meeting in the summer of 2000 there was an outburst of violence by the Palestinians. It's also true that Israel over-reacted to this, but also it's a fact that there were further negotiations, which moved toward an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Both sides have been playing the blame game over the failure to reach an accord, but neither side has ever put forward a convincing reason for stopping the talks. If half the ingenuity and energy invested in the separation fence had been directed toward negotiations, we might be in a different place today.
The barrier was conceived as a response to despair over suicide bombings. Since then, various pressure groups - the right, the left, the settlers, the IDF, the demographic lobby, the civil rights movements, and the Supreme Court - have argued about its proposed route. Is it any wonder that its route is an illogical improvisation that endeavors to placate the various above-mentioned bodies?
However, if the separation fence is wrong and ill-advised as a general concept, it becomes a grotesque farce when applied to Jerusalem. I invite Haaretz readers to tour the route of the barrier in Jerusalem and study the maps. The Jerusalem fence has no logic whatsoever - political, demographic or security. It is simply an ugly, unwieldy monstrosity that will create only more frustration and anger on the Palestinian side.
Hasn't the time come for us to realize that both Israelis and Palestinians live in this tiny strip of land between the Mediterranean and Jordan River, and there is absolutely no alternative to living here side-by-side? There is no way to separate us from the Palestinians, particularly since all versions of the separation fence fence off only some of the Palestinians.
Haaretz is wrong. The separation fence should not be completed. It should be abandoned, and those sections already built should be torn down. Israel can re-occupy the territories and send the IDF into every alley and building there to bring terrorism to a stop, or, alternatively, it can sit down and talk to the Palestinians - to Abu Mazen, to Hamas, to everybody. This latter approach, which I favor, will require huge patience and nerves of steel, but at least it can be tried. The separation fence is merely an ad-hoc improvisation. It doesn't solve anything.