The Magazine

Ariel Sharon's Gamble

Is there safety behind a wall?

May 3, 2004, Vol. 9, No. 32 • By DANIEL DORON
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The consensus around the wall has another major drawback. Walls have a tendency to create a Maginot Line mentality. The Bar Lev line Israel erected along the Suez canal after 1967 was first a series of outposts designed to serve as tripwires and direct Israeli mobile armor units to where the Egyptians might attempt to cross the canal. Heavy Egyptian shelling forced Israel to transform them into fortified strongholds. Protecting these strongholds then gradually shifted Israeli strategy into a defensive posture. This shift played a role in the disaster that befell Israeli forces in the first days of the Yom Kippur War in 1973.

The separation wall may also end up inhibiting Israel's access to intelligence sources that have contributed greatly to foiling so many terrorist acts. It might furthermore limit the ability of Israeli forces to move even in hot pursuit into the West Bank and Gaza, since each such breach by Israel of a wall it has created will be criticized and will put Israel on the defensive.

But the wall's greatest drawback is that it punishes the innocent along with the guilty, and often instead of them. The wall will worsen the already miserable condition of the Arab population upon which terrorist organizations thrive. It will abandon the Palestinian Arab population, many of whom do not support terrorism, to the mercy of a corrupt and irredentist leadership that has proven its willingness to immiserate the population and then transform the desperation it has created into deep hatred for Israel and to terrorist attacks. (Before Oslo brought Arafat and his terrorist minions to the West Bank and Gaza, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs worked in Israel, yet you could count terror incidents on one hand.)

Peace can only come when a new Palestinian leadership, emerging from a civil society, replaces the Oslo-imposed criminals and terrorists of the Palestinian Authority. Only then could a Palestinian leader make compromises for peace the way the Israelis are willing to do. As long as Arafat and his partners hold sway among the Palestinians, any alternative peace-seeking leadership is doomed to death.

So it is Israel's failure to systematically eradicate terrorism, by destroying its infrastructure, its organizations, and its leadership that is, paradoxically, the greatest obstacle to peace. As in Iraq--half measures will not do. They only prolong the agony and cause unnecessary massive suffering, not only for Israelis, but for the Palestinian Arabs too.

Daniel Doron is director of the Israel Center for Social and Economic Progress, an independent pro-market policy think tank.