It's almost comical how political adversaries have changed their opinions on the security fence in the past two years. At first leaders of the Labor Party, their public opinion ratings sinking daily, thought that they had found the ideal stick with which to beat Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the Likud. Palestinian suicide bombers were spreading terror in Israeli cities at a time when the security forces seemed incapable of dealing adequately with the threat. Why not put up a fence to keep the terrorists out?
It seemed to work in Gaza, so why should it not work along the Green Line and protect population centers? If it ended up as a physical demarcation line that would in time make the Green Line Israel's border and lead to withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, then so much the better.
If it led to abandoning the settlements in Judea and Samaria, would the Labor Party shed any tears over that. The fence, which seemed to promise protection against suicide bombers, was sure to be popular with the citizens. And it was. Even if it was not a guaranteed protection against terrorists, it was likely to do some good. And if it cost a fortune, nothing was too expensive if it saved lives. The people of Israel wanted a fence to separate them from the Palestinians.
The Likud was in a quandary. There were doubts regarding the efficacy of the fence. The cost of construction was exorbitant. The settlers hated it. Those opposed to a return to the 1967 borders certainly did not want to establish a physical demarcation line along those borders. You could announce a million times that this would be a security fence and that it had no political significance, but, nevertheless, it was bound to have significance.
Here the Labor Party saw its opportunity to recover from the Oslo debacle. The Likud is prepared to risk the lives of Israel's citizens for the sake of an anachronistic ideology, they declared. Every act of Palestinian terrorism was greeted with comments that it could have been avoided if only there had been a fence. Likud leaders can read public opinion polls - the people wanted a fence. And so the order went out to build a fence.
Now that the first section of the fence has been completed things start to look different. What you saw from the fence was not what you saw before the fence went up. First of all it did not follow the Green Line. Settlements in Samaria located not far from the Green Line were happy to find themselves on the western side of the fence.
A substantial diversion of the fence perimeter left Alfei Menashe, one of the larger settlements in Samaria, protected by the fence. In its farther extension southward the fence was planned to move eastward right into the heart of Samaria so as to also embrace the town of Ariel. So here go the Labor Party's dreams of the fence setting the Green Line in concrete.
And now the Palestinians started screaming. Not only was the fence going to make it more difficult for Palestinian terrorists to penetrate into Israel's cities, but the pieces and parts of Samaria that were going to be fenced off were not likely ever to come under Palestinian control.
Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas complained to President George Bush, who expressed reservations about the fence and even called it a "wall." Now, who is for the fence and who is against the fence? It seems positions have reversed.
The Palestinians have themselves to blame for the construction of the fence. It is the direct result of the outrageous campaign of terror they waged against Israel's civilian population during the past three years that took such a heavy toll of Israeli lives.
Israelis remember well that the suicide bombers enjoyed the massive support of the Palestinian population in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. That is something that will not be forgotten for quite a long time. So separation from the Palestinians seems like a good idea. If the fence will help keep Palestinians out of Israel in the years to come, so much the better.
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