[Building a Wall and Israel's] Quick-Fix Mentality
by Daniel Pipes
Translations of this item:
Should Israel build a fence and separate from the Palestinians? Everyone has their two cents to add to the debate; here's mine. Although a fence might decrease the volume of Palestinian violence, it would serve only as a tactic of mixed utility, not as a grand strategy ("separation") for defining Israel's borders and preserving its Jewish nature. Its limitations include:
In sum: A fence as a practical tool - maybe; as the basis for a policy of separation - no. That separation has suddenly become popular in Israel points to a larger problem: a too-eager search for the quick fix. This eagerness first appeared with the Oslo process in 1993 when Israel in effect told the Arabs, "Take territories and other benefits, but then leave us alone." This initiative failed because its unilateralism reflected Israeli - not Arab - wishes to end the conflict. Separation is very different in its specifics but similar in spirit ("Here are your borders, now leave us alone"). It too will fail, for Palestinians will certainly reject their assigned borders. Nor is this the only quick-fix idea being bruited about. Others include:
These clever ideas are in reality disguised efforts to avoid reality. Ending the Arab-Israeli conflict requires a willingness by Arabs to live in comity with a Jewish state. This will be achieved not via a quick fix but by Arabs concluding that they can never destroy Israel. That in turn will happen only if Israel reverts to the deterrence policy that it famously deployed before 1993.
Granted, that policy was slow, tedious, painful, passive, and frustrating, but the decades proved that it worked quite well. In contrast, ideas like unilateral concessions, a fence, waiting out Arafat, or looking to international troops seductively offer solutions "without any real tribulation," as Steven Plaut puts it.
Sounds good, but the last eight years established how they harm Israelis and Arabs alike. Fortunately, it's not too late to adopt the right strategy. By reestablishing its reputation for toughness, Israel can simultaneously improve its security position and release the Arabs from the demons of their obsessive anti-Zionism - thereby permitting both parties to disengage from the other and tend to their own gardens.
The implication for Western states is clear: Urge Israelis away from quick-fix solutions and implore them to return to the hard work of deterrence. This will tamp down Arab aggressiveness, thereby benefiting all parties.
Dec. 22, 2004 update: Although the security fence has reduced the number of murders of Israelis, it has its strict limitations, an article in today's Arutz Sheva, "IDF Officials Breaking Silence on Ineffectiveness of Fence," indicates:
Jan. 1, 2009 update: Tunnels turned out to be a problem from Gaza to Egypt, not from Gaza to Israel. Rather, Israel's security problem has been something no one anticipated back in 2001 - rockets. Here is a paragraph from a report out today, "Summary of rocket fire and mortar shelling in 2008," from the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center:
Comment: An obserever could have no idea in August 2001 what form the new Palestinian aggression would take but now we know.
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