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Saving Lives: Israel's anti-terrorist fence

1 January, 2004
1. Why is Israel building the anti-terrorist fence?

More than 900 people were murdered in attacks carried out by Palestinian terrorists since late September 2000.

Thousands of Israelis have been injured, many of the victims maimed for life. The terrorists infiltrated Israeli cities and towns and carried out attacks - often in the form of suicide bombings - on buses, in restaurants, shopping malls, and even private homes.

No other nation in the world has before this time faced such an intense wave of terror, especially in the form of suicide bombings.

In almost all of the cases, the terrorists infiltrated from Palestinian areas in the West Bank. The Palestinian leadership has done nothing to stop them and has even encouraged them.

Israel's decision to erect a physical barrier against terrorism was taken only after other options were tried, but failed to stop the deadly terrorist attacks. Public opinion in Israel pushed for building a fence that would block the terrorists from entering Israeli population centers. The absence of a barrier makes infiltration into Israel communities a relatively easy task for terrorists. No terrorists have infiltrated from the Gaza Strip into Israel in recent years, because an electronic anti-terrorist fence already exists there.

The Government of Israel has an obligation to defend its citizens against terrorism. This right of self-defense is anchored in international law. The anti-terrorist fence is an act of self-defense that saves lives.

2. How could the Palestinian Authority have avoided the building of the anti-terrorist fence?

The Palestinians have only themselves to blame for the anti-terrorist fence. The decision to build the anti-terrorist fence was taken only after other options were tried, but failed to stop the deadly terrorist attacks.

The Palestinian Authority has not fulfilled the commitments it made to fight terrorism. Those obligations were contained in the Oslo Accords and subsequent agreements, as well as in the Roadmap that was presented to the sides in May 2003.

The Palestinians seek to blame Israel, the victim of terrorism that is taking a purely defensive measure. The Palestinians ignore the hundreds of innocent victims murdered by Palestinian terrorism emanating from the West Bank.

Had there been no terrorism, Israel would not have been compelled to build a fence to protect its citizens. The Palestinians need to dismantle the terrorist organizations, confiscate weapons, arrest the planners and perpetrators of terrorist acts, stop incitement and resume security cooperation with Israel - all these steps are required by the Roadmap.

3. Is it a "wall" or a "fence"?

Despite the many pictures being shown in the international media of a tall concrete wall, more than 97% of the planned 720 km. (480 mile) anti-terrorist fence will consist of a chain-link fence system.

The anti-terrorist fence forms a strip approximately the width of a four-lane highway. At its center is the chain-link fence that supports an intrusion detection system. This technologically advanced system is designed to warn against infiltrations, as are the dirt "tracking" path and other observation tools.

Less than 3% of the fence will be constructed of concrete. The short concrete sections are intended not only to stop terrorists from infiltrating, but also to block them from shooting at Israeli vehicles traveling on main highways alongside the pre-June 1967 line, at nearby Jewish residential areas, and at other targets. In a few cases, because of the density of housing and other construction in the area, the building of a fence is impossible and, therefore, a concrete barrier becomes necessary.

4. Is the anti-terrorist fence not establishing permanent facts on the ground?

The route of the fence has been determined on the basis of security needs and topographical considerations.

The anti-terrorist fence will not annex Palestinian lands nor change the legal status of the Palestinians. The anti-terrorist fence is a temporary, defensive measure - not a border: the border is to be determined by direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians

The fence is being built in such a way that, if necessary, the relevant parts can be moved to different locations. In this context, it will be remembered that when Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon, in fulfillment of UN Security Council Resolution 425, the UN delineated the border between Israel and Lebanon. Israel moved its anti-terrorist fence, sometimes only a meter or less, to comply with the new border. Similarly, Israel's experience with Egypt and Jordan has shown that fences have never blocked political agreements and peace treaties; where necessary, the fences were moved.

5. Why is the anti-terrorist fence not being built only along the pre-June 1967 lines?

The sole purpose for the fence is security and it is being built wherever this is needed to prevent terrorists from infiltrating into Israeli population centers. Building the fence only along the pre-June 1967 lines (the former "Green Line") would be a political statement only, having nothing to do with the security needs of Israel's citizens.

The former "Green Line" was the armistice line between Israel and Jordan during the years 1949-1967. It was not the final border between the countries which was to be determined in peace negotiations. The "Green Line" ceased to exist following the Arab threat to Israel's existence in the spring of 1967 which led to the Six Day War in June of that year. The drafters of UN Security Council Resolution 242 in November 1967 recognized that the pre-June 1967 lines were not secure.

While the final border between Israel and the Palestinians has to be determined in negotiations, the route of the anti-terrorism fence is determined solely by the immediate and pressing need to save Israeli lives by preventing Palestinian terrorists from reaching the Israeli populations. Thus, the fence is being built wherever this can be achieved most effectively. To put it arbitrarily anywhere else, such as along the pre-June 1967 lines, would have nothing to do with security and, therefore, nothing to do with the purpose of the fence.

In those cases where the route of the fence meets Israel's security needs within the former "Green Line," it is being built there. Parts of the fence totaling several hundred meters are being built within the pre-June 1967 lines in keeping with the required security requirements on the ground.

6. Is the anti-terrorist fence not an obstacle to peace?

Terrorism is a deadly obstacle to peace. The fence is an obstacle to terrorism.

The purpose of the fence is to keep the terrorists out and, thereby, save the lives of Israel's citizens, Jews and Arabs alike.

By serving as a defensive, temporary, passive and effective barrier to terrorism, the fence will help restore calm to the region and thereby increase the chances of achieving peace. The wave of terrorism which has murdered over 900 Israelis since September 2000 has undermined the peace process and led to deadlock. Ending terrorism will get the peace process moving again, and, in that regard, the anti-terrorist fence will be making an important contribution to the renewal of peace efforts.

Already, the as yet uncompleted anti-terrorist fence has shown initial successes in thwarting terrorist efforts and reducing the overall number of successful terrorist attacks. Some planned terror attacks were stopped because the terrorists were unable to bypass the fence. Once the fence will be completed, the terrorists will find conditions much more difficult for carrying out their murderous intentions. This can only help the cause of peace.

Once terrorism ends and peace is achieved, the fence can be moved.

7. Is the fence taking into proper consideration the needs of the Palestinian population?

In addition to its efforts to ensure the security of its citizens, Israel attaches considerable importance to the interests of the local Palestinian residents. Israel recognizes the necessity of finding an appropriate balance between the imperative need to prevent terrorism and defend its citizens, and the humanitarian needs of local Palestinian residents.

Israel has made the use of public lands a priority in building the anti-terrorist fence, in order to avoid, as much as possible, the use of private lands. If this is not possible, then private land is requisitioned, not confiscated, and it remains the property of the owner. Legal procedures allow every owner to file an objection to the use of their land. When private lands are used, owners are offered full compensation, in accordance with the law; this compensation is given both as a lump sum and also on a monthly basis.

Most Palestinians will be on the eastern side of the fence. They will have access to their commercial and urban centers. No Palestinians will have to relocate. Israel will make every effort to avoid causing hardship and interference with their daily lives. In fact, once completed, the fence will enable Israel to remove a large number of the roadblocks currently in place to prevent terrorists from getting through.

Dozens of crossing points have been set up to enable the movement of people and goods. The anti-terrorist fence was located, to the greatest possible degree, on unused land to avoid harming agriculture. Palestinian farmers will have access to their fields and will reach them through special gates that are being built into the fence. Trees affected by the construction will be replanted.

There would have been no need for an anti-terrorist fence had there not been an orchestrated campaign of terrorism that targets Israeli men, women and children for death. Death is permanent. It is irreversible. The inconvenience caused to Palestinians by the anti-terrorist fence is temporary and reversible, once terrorism stops and peace is achieved.

Freedom of movement is important. But it is not more important than the right to live. Having said this, Israel will do all it can to reduce hardship and inconvenience for the Palestinians who are affected by the fence.

8. Is the anti-terrorist fence not intensifying hostility and hatred towards Israel?

Incitement within the Palestinian Authority and the Arab world is the cause of hostility and hatred towards Israel. The intensification of this hostility and hatred is due to the continuation of the incitement, and not due to the anti-terrorist fence which is designed to prevent terrorist attacks - a deadly result of the hate campaign against Israel.

In a number of Arab countries and in Palestinian society the struggle against Israel takes center stage, and the call to destroy Israel has been at the core of their social-cultural-political ethos. In some Arab societies, this situation prevails to this very day. The Palestinians' vehement anti-Israel rhetoric has had a crippling impact throughout the region on efforts for peace. The intense coverage of the Palestinian perspective of events and incitement from Palestinian spokespersons have enflamed anti-Israeli sentiments in Arab countries, even influencing many pro-peace Arab states to downgrade their ties with Israel. Palestinian incitement causes violence in the short term, while in the long term it reduces the chances for peace and reconciliation between Israel and its neighbors.

The Palestinian education system, media, literature, songs, theater and cinema are mobilized for extreme anti-Israel indoctrination, which at times degenerates even further into antisemitism. The incitement to hatred and violence is pervasive almost everywhere in Palestinian society: in nursery schools and kindergartens, youth movements, schools, universities, mosque sermons, and street demonstrations. This creates a culture of hatred and violence, which in turn provides fertile ground for terrorism and murder.

Incitement against Israel has many faces. It begins by totally ignoring the very existence of the State of Israel. The maps in the schools and universities do not bear even the name of Israel, nor a large number of its cities and towns. Beyond that, the incitement extols the names and deeds of the suicide bombers, names football teams after them, and holds the terrorists up as models to be emulated. The incitement includes antisemitic cartoons that use the same kind of motifs and imagery that was used against the Jews during the Nazi era.

9. Has the partially completed anti-terrorist fence succeeded in reducing the number of terrorist attacks?

Data reveals a clear correlation between the construction of the fence and a drop in the number of terrorist attacks from those areas adjacent to the parts of the fence that have been completed.

Statistical data indicates a 30% drop in the number of terrorist attacks that took place in 2003 compared to 2002. Similarly, there has been a 50% decrease in the number of victims murdered by terrorists in 2003 compared to the previous year.

There were 17 suicide bomber attacks inside Israel that emanated from the northern part (Samaria) of the West Bank during the months April-December 2002. In contrast, since construction began on the anti-terrorist fence, throughout all of 2003 only 5 suicide bomber attacks emanated from the same area.

From that area where construction of the anti-terrorist fence has not yet begun, namely the southern part (Judea) of the West Bank, no decrease in the number of terrorist attacks has been noted.

Once the construction of the anti-terrorist fence will be completed, the overall number of terrorist attacks against Israeli population centers is expected to decrease immensely.

10. Is the anti-terrorist fence not a manifestation of apartheid and racism?

Almost every Palestinian claim attaches the term "apartheid" to the fence. But the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is nothing like the situation that existed in South Africa, and Israel's anti-terrorist fence has nothing to do with racial separation, but with the need to prevent terrorism.

Racial separation, as embodied by apartheid, was used in South Africa against fellow citizens of the same country; black South Africans were denied all rights and mingling between the ethnic groups was strictly forbidden.

Palestinian propaganda utterly ignores the fact that the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis is not a racial one, nor a domestic one, but, in fact, a national-territorial conflict between two distinct peoples.

  • Israel does not wish to rule the Palestinians and accepts in principle the establishment of a Palestinian state, provided that it not be a terrorist state and that it exists in peace alongside Israel.
  • Israel is basically interested in contacts between Israelis and Palestinians. The only reason that Palestinians have in recent years been restricted from entering into Israel is because of their terrorist attacks against Israelis, attacks that escalated every time Israel tried to relax restrictions.

The Palestinians are not citizens of Israel. But Israeli Arabs are citizens, and they have equal rights under Israeli law.

The attempt to depict the building of the anti-terrorist fence by Israel as somehow related to "apartheid" is ridiculous. What Palestinian propaganda purposefully omits is that the sole reason for the building of the fence by Israel is Palestinian terrorism.

11. Is the anti-terrorist fence not another "Berlin Wall"?

The Palestinian attempt to draw a parallel between Israel's anti-terrorist fence and the Berlin Wall that was built by the Communist East German regime is nothing more than cheap propaganda that plays fast and loose with historical facts.

The Berlin Wall was designed by the Communist regime of East Germany to solidify and perpetuate the division of the city by keeping the German citizens of "East Berlin" - who sought only freedom and contacts with their German brethren in "West Berlin" - locked in. The Berlin Wall was built during the height of the Cold War by a totalitarian regime in its struggle against the democracy that thrived in the western sections of the city and in the Federal Republic of Germany.

In stark contrast, Israel is building the anti-terrorist fence for only one purpose - to keep Palestinian terrorists, who wish to murder and maim Israeli citizens, out. Israel, a democratic society, is building the fence to protect its citizens from deadly attack, not from peaceful contacts with the other side. It is Palestinian terrorism - backed by an authoritarian regime and supported by the most dangerous terrorist organizations and terrorist-sponsoring states in the Middle East - that is the threat and the proponent of conflict in the region. Terrorism has forced Israel to take the defensive step of building an anti-terrorist fence.

12. Is the anti-terrorist fence not creating "ghettos"?

In referring to the building of the anti-terrorist fence by misusing the term "ghettos", Palestinian propaganda is cynically manipulating history and reality. Anti-terrorist measures, such as the fence, have no connection whatsoever with "ghettos".

In misusing the term "ghetto" the Palestinians choose to manipulate a term linked to the darkest, most painful periods of Jewish history, and especially the Holocaust. In this manner, the Palestinians are seeking another means to once again smear the name of Israel. This is a classic example of the propagandistic use of an outright lie for the purpose of rewriting and falsifying history and transforming the victim into the perpetrator. The Jews were forced into ghettos to persecute them, to discriminate against them, and to isolate them, and ultimately, during the Holocaust, to kill them. Israel is not forcing the Palestinians to live where they are, but is being forced to build the security fence to keep the Palestinians terrorists away from Israeli communities.

Israel is not seeking to isolate the Palestinians. Israel would like nothing more than to see contacts and cooperation flourish with its Palestinian neighbors and the Arab world. This, however, cannot be said about the Palestinian and Arab world's approach to Israel.

The Palestinians and the Arab states have systematically over the decades tried every means imaginable to isolate Israel, in effect building a "wall' around Israel in order to eventually destroy it. They have tried to do this through economic boycott and diplomatic assaults in the international arena. They have taken action in order to prevent Israel from participating in cultural and sports events. They have kept Israel from participating in Middle Eastern and Asian related events, even though Israel is part of the Middle East and the Asian continent. They have used the same kind of antisemitic diatribes against Israel that were used against the Jewish people during the times in history when Jews were forced into ghettos. If anyone is trying to build ghettos, it is the Palestinians and the Arab world that are guilty of trying to do this against Israel.

13. Who decided to submit the question of the anti-terrorist fence to the International Court of Justice at the Hague?

On December 8, 2003, the UN General Assembly, in an emergency special session, adopted a resolution requesting the International Court of Justice to render an advisory opinion regarding the "legal consequences" of Israel's anti-terrorist fence. The resolution, part of the Arab political campaign against Israel in the United Nations, was adopted by those who automatically back the Arab position against Israel in the UN.

The Arabs and their backers in the UN General Assembly initiated the move to submit the subject of the anti-terrorist fence to the International Court of Justice in the Hague, in spite of the fact that the General Assembly had already discussed the issue and adopted a position on it. Following the General Assembly's adoption of a predisposed and tendentious resolution on the fence, the Arab states are now seeking what would be in effect the "rubber stamp" approval of the International Court of Justice for the General Assembly view, thereby turning the International Court of Justice into a pawn in the political defamatory campaign against Israel.

It should be noted that the majority of all the member states in the UN General Assembly did not support the decision to submit the issue of the fence to the International Court of Justice. Only 90 states (many of them undemocratic) out of the 191-member General Assembly voted in favor of the resolution.

14. Why is the International Court of Justice at the Hague not the proper venue for dealing with the question of the anti-terrorist fence?

The question that was put to the Court not only reflects the UN General Assembly's tendentious and one-sided position on the subject, but it also ignores the problem of terrorism.

The question refers only to the fence, while deliberately ignoring Palestinian terrorism, especially the suicide-bombings which are the reason for Israel's decision to build the anti-terrorist fence. Also ignored is the Palestinian Authority's failure - in spite of the numerous obligations that it took upon itself - to take action to stop terrorism.

The question put to the court refers to a "wall" in spite of the fact that this is an erroneous characterization. The use of the term "wall" is nothing less than a deliberate attempt to mislead the Court, by ignoring the fact that less than 3% of the anti-terrorist barrier is concrete, while over 97% of the barrier consists of a chain-link system.

The question also is phrased in a way that politically prejudges and predetermines matters that need to be resolved in negotiations. It refers to Israel as the "Occupying Power" and to the territories that are in dispute between Israel and the Palestinians as "Occupied Palestinian Territories."

Israel views the building of the anti-terrorist fence as legitimate and necessary measure of self-defense against suicide bombers and terrorists. Therefore, the question should not be the legal consequences of the fence, but whether the International Court of Justice should be deliberating over politically contentious issues, especially since the UN General Assembly has already adopted a position on the matter and prejudged it.

The UN General Assembly's decision to submit the issue of the fence to the International Court of Justice totally ignores Article 36 of the Court's Statute which stipulates that contentious issues can only be brought before the Court with the consent of all sides. In this case, not only is the issue at hand clearly contentious, but the parties have already agreed on appropriate mechanisms for resolving such issues between them.

The question put to the Court is, therefore, yet another part of the political campaign waged by the Arabs and their backers in the UN to defame Israel - this time by misusing the International Court of Justice and focusing on the result (the anti-terrorist fence), instead of the cause (Palestinian terrorism).

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