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The Anti-Terrorist Fence – An Overview
I. The UN General Assembly Resolution Referring the Subject to the ICJ
The UN General Assembly’s decision to refer the matter of the anti-terrorist fence to the International Court of Justice in the Hague is regrettable. The General Assembly resolution, initiated by those who support terrorism, was adopted within the framework of an emergency special session - a mechanism that is employed by the General Assembly to assist in maintaining world peace and security.
The Palestinians once again used the automatic majority which backs their positions in the General Assembly in order to promote an initiative that not only sabotages efforts to generate those conditions that will renew the peace process, but even will harm the UN itself and the capability of the UN to fulfill its mission of advancing and preserving world peace and security. It should be noted that it was not a majority of all the member states in the UN General Assembly that voted in favor of the resolution, but only 90 states (many of them undemocratic) out of a total of 191.
The International Court of Justice in The Hague is not the proper venue to settle the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The international community has already chosen a different course, namely the Roadmap, to promote direct negotiations between the sides, thus leading to a resolution of the conflict.
It should be recalled that the UN General Assembly had already adopted a one- sided and tendentious resolution condemning the anti-terrorist fence and branding it illegal. Over a month later, the General Assembly referred the question of the fence’s legality to the ICJ, without making any mention of the Palestinian terrorism that engendered its construction. Submitting the issue to the ICJ will only cause the politicization of that institution, as has happened to other international organs that have been exploited by the Palestinians for partisan political gain.
Regrettably, the Palestinians have embarked upon a cynical political maneuver against Israel in the international arena rather than trying to resolve the issues through direct negotiations.
II. A Matter of Saving Lives
Since September 2000, more than 900 Israelis have been murdered and thousands more wounded, many maimed for the rest of their lives. Israelis are facing a unique and unprecedented threat, of a magnitude never experienced by any other country in the world. Palestinian suicide terrorism directed against coffee shops, buses, shopping centers and other public places has presented Israel with the immediate and urgent need to stop the infiltration of Palestinian terrorists into its population centers.
The building of the anti-terrorist fence has become a vital, urgent and critical imperative, in order to save civilian lives. Indeed, the fence has proven its effectiveness in reducing the number of successful terrorist attacks in those areas in which it has been already completed.
III. The Fundamental Right of Self-Defense
Israel has administered Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip since the Six-Day War of 1967. At no point during the ensuing decades was the idea of building a fence ever raised, until the Palestinians embarked upon a campaign of large-scale terrorism, murder and violence against innocent civilians. The anti-terrorist fence is a passive, temporary and effective measure against suicide terrorists.
It is the elementary responsibility of all governments in the world to protect the lives of their citizens.
Those who state that Israel has "the right to protect its citizens" while at the same time negating its right to build an anti-terrorist fence are paying mere lip service to the principle of self-defense.
IV. It Is Terrorism that Created the Fence
The only reason for building the fence is terrorism. In the past few years, the Palestinian leadership has committed themselves countless times to putting an end to terrorism. These Palestinian obligations have been undertaken in the context of signed agreements with Israel, as well as in the framework of internationally promoted peace efforts such as the Mitchell report, the Tenet document, UN Security Council Resolution 1397 and most recently, the Roadmap. Yet the terrorism has continued unabated, since the PA has done nothing to stop this terrorism or to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure.
When the terrorism stops, there will be no further need for an anti-terrorist fence. A total cessation of terrorism can only be achieved by dismantling the terrorist organizations, arresting the terrorists, collecting all illegal weapons, preventing the terrorists from attacking, and putting a stop to the officially sanctioned incitement which engenders the violence.
V. The Route of the Fence
The anti-terrorist fence is being established for the sole purpose of protecting Israelis against Palestinian terrorism. The guiding principle in the planning of the fence's route is to protect as many Israelis as possible while including as few Palestinians as possible on the western side of the fence. The fence's route was determined according to security considerations, as well as local topographical factors.
VI. A Fence, Not a Wall
Although most of the television reports have chosen to show footage of a concrete wall, in fact, the sections where a solid wall has been built are only a small part of the total anti-terrorist fence project. When the entire project is completed (including the section near Jerusalem), the walled sections will make up only about 5% of the total.
Walls were built only in areas where the threat of sniper fire is real and immediate (such as adjacent to the Trans-Israel Highway), or in areas in which it was impossible to build a fence for topographical reasons.
In any case, presenting the anti-terrorist fence project as a "wall" is simply a tendentious distortion of the facts on the ground.
VII. The Fence is a Temporary Measure, not a Permanent Border
Since the fence is being built as a security response to terrorism, it will serve no further purpose when the terrorism ceases. The anti-terrorist fence is not meant to be a border. The border will be determined in the future, through political negotiations between the sides, which can only reconvene after the terrorism has ceased.
VIII. The Fence has Proven Its Effectiveness
Not a single Palestinian suicide bomber has entered Israel from the Gaza Strip, which has been surrounded by a similar security fence, erected pursuant to the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement of 1995. This plain fact speaks for itself.
Moreover, recent data further indicates the effectiveness of the fence:
In Samaria (northern West Bank):
Between April and December 2002 (before construction of the fence), 17 suicide attacks were committed within Israel by terrorists who infiltrated from Samaria.
Yet in all of 2003 (after the construction of the Samaria section of the fence) there were only 5 attacks by terrorists infiltrating from Samaria.
By contrast, in Judea (which has no fence):
Between April and December 2002, there were 10 suicide attacks committed by terrorists infiltrating from Judea.
In 2003, there were 11 attacks by suicide terrorists infiltrating from Judea.
The conclusion is unavoidable:
Construction of the fence in Samaria was followed by a significant decrease in the number of suicide attacks originating from the area. Yet, in Judea, where no fence was built, there was no reduction in the number of attacks.
Furthermore, the overall decline in the number and lethality of attacks in 2003 – 30% less attacks and about 50% fewer killed compared to 2002 – can also be attributed, at least in part, to the construction of the anti-terrorist fence (the preventive operations of Israeli security forces may have also played a role in this decrease).
IX. Humanitarian Considerations
Israel is sensitive to the hardship faced by those Palestinians whose everyday life is impacted by the construction of the fence, and is working to find practical solutions to the problems arising in the field. However, the urgent security imperative of preventing suicide terrorism dictates that a fence must be erected.
In building the fence, preference is given to using public land. When there is no other choice, the fence is built on private land. Even in these cases, every effort is made to avoid building on cultivated land. The private land is not expropriated from its owners, yet remains the property of the original owners, who are eligible to receive one-time compensation for its seizure, as well as annual payment for its use. To date, dozens of requests for compensation and payment have been received.
Appeal procedure against land seizure:
Upon issuance of an order regarding the seizure of land, any person affected by the fence route may submit objections. These objections are then considered, and when changes can be made without negatively impacting upon operational considerations, such changes are incorporated into the planning. Indeed, changes of this type have been made very often.
In those cases in which the objections are not accepted, compromise solutions are sought. In many cases, Israeli planners amended the route of the fence, or other aspects of the project, following discussions held with local Palestinians. If, after negotiations, the sides still cannot find a solution, the property owner may petition Israel’s High Court of Justice. To date, about 20 such petitions have been submitted.
Agricultural Gates / School Passages:
Along the route of the fence, about 40 gates have been constructed, meant to ease access for farmers to their fields, and facilitate passage for students to their schools.
Recently, some localized changes have been introduced to the fence route, in order to improve freedom of movement for local Palestinian residents. For example, in the area of Rachel’s Tomb (near Bethlehem), the route was adjusted in order to reduce the number of Palestinian homes included in the area west of the fence. Similarly, between the village of Habla and the city of Qalqilya (in Samaria), an underground passage was built in order to facilitate free movement between the two areas. Additional adjustments in the fence route are expected in the future, with the intention of easing the daily life of the Palestinians as much as possible, without impacting upon security considerations.
X. The Moral Dilemma: Freedom of Movement or The Right to Life
Israel is aware of the fact that in certain areas in which the anti-terrorist fence has been built, problems have arisen that make daily life difficult for the local Palestinian population. The Israeli Government is trying to find solutions to alleviate these hardships.
However, if one considers the difficulties of daily routine, as compared to the real and immediate threat faced by Israeli citizens from suicide bombers, it cannot be clearly stated that the Palestinians' right to freedom of movement must take precedence over the right of Israelis to live, or the duty of the Israeli government to protect them from becoming the next victims of Palestinian terrorism.
SAVING LIVES MUST COME FIRST.
XI. The Palestinian Claim of Being Forced into "Ghettoes" is Baseless
The Palestinian use of the word "ghettoes" is a conscious attempt to evoke the worst period in Jewish history, the Holocaust, and to distort the meaning of this charged term, exploiting it for the purposes of Palestinian propaganda. The intention of this tactic is to demonize Israel and to turn the victims of terrorism into the victimizers.
Furthermore, it was not Israel who pursued a systematic policy of fencing out a neighboring nation with a wall of rejection, while refusing for decades to recognize, negotiate, or make peace with it. This well-known Arab strategy of isolating Israel in order to destroy it also included full cultural and commercial boycotts that still remain in effect to this day.
XII. The Palestinian Comparison of the Fence to the Berlin Wall
In this matter, as well, Palestinian propaganda is consciously misleading. The Berlin Wall was erected by a totalitarian regime for the purpose of preventing the citizens of East Berlin from escaping to the free, democratic world.
The purpose of the anti-terrorist fence is not to prevent escape to freedom, but quite the opposite – to prevent the infiltration of terrorists whose sole objective is to kill.
The Berlin Wall divided Germans from Germans. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is between two separate peoples who do not see themselves as belonging to a single national, political or territorial entity.
The comparison is thus without foundation, and its sole purpose is to malign Israel.
XIII. The Palestinian Claim that the Fence Constitutes "Apartheid"
This is another example of the attempt by Palestinian propaganda to exploit a term with negative historical connotations to distort today’s reality.
Apartheid was a policy employed by an odious racist regime to discriminate between people on the basis of skin color. This racist system has nothing whatsoever in common with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a conflict between two peoples (and not two races) on the basis of national and territorial aspirations, which can be resolved through negotiation and compromise between the sides.
Thus, there is no connection whatsoever between an anti-terrorist fence meant to save Israeli lives from Palestinian suicide terrorists, and the abhorrent racial discrimination of apartheid.
To: The Foreign Ministry
From: The Prime Minister
Upon my instructions, an institute is being established to co-ordinate state intelligence agencies
(the Military Intelligence Department, the Foreign Ministry State Department, the General Security Agency, etc.)
I have charged Reuben Shiloah, Foreign Ministry adviser for special projects,
to organize and head the institute. Reuben Shiloah will report to me.
He will act upon my instructions and will submit regular working reports to me.
For administrative purposes, his office will be part of the foreign ministry.
I have instructed R. Shiloah to submit a manpower and budget proposal for 1950-51 for approximately
IL20,000, IL5,000 of which will be used for special operations, contingent on my prior authorization.
You are hereby requested to add this sum to the foreign ministry budget for 1950-51.
D. Ben Gurion