Settlers Above All

The Israeli government wanted to build a fence that would be an obstacle to prevent terror attacks, but ended up deciding on a route full of deeper fjords than in Norway, with underground passages, tens of thousands of Palestinians trapped between double fences, and total surrender to the settlers.

There is joke about a government committee that wanted to plan a donkey, but ended up with a two-humped camel. The Israeli government has gone further than that. It wanted to build a fence that would be an obstacle to prevent terror attacks, but ended up deciding on a route full of deeper fjords than in Norway, with underground passages, tens of thousands of Palestinians trapped between double fences, a withdrawal from 12 percent of the territory in the West Bank and total surrender to the settlers - and at a fantastical budgetary cost of NIS 5 billion, at a time when NIS 250 million is being cut from the basket of lifesaving drugs.

This was a typical Mapai-type compromise, a la Ariel Sharon, an attempt to please everyone, to give in to all the political pressures. The result will therefore not only not solve the security and economic problems, but will make them even worse.

If the fence had been built according to the plan presented by former interior minister Haim Ramon two years ago, it would have been built along the Green Line, on the shortest possible route, and would thus be efficient in maintaining security. After all, every zigzag makes security more difficult and infiltration easier. The fence Ramon proposed would have cost a more reasonable sum of NIS 1.2 billion at most.

But the government decided on a route that will cost at least NIS 5 billion. Thus the settlements continue to cost the Jewish people superfluous billions of shekels, right when the government is cutting the health services budget, child allowances and disability pensions, and even the education and defense budgets. The government is thereby setting Israel's true list of priorities: everything for the sake of the settlements, everything for the development of bypass roads, to hell with any other considerations, social or economic and never mind about peace.

Sharon, who strenuously opposed the fence because he did not want to lay down a political border, in the end decided on the most political fence possible, because it is determined by the settlement map. It will cause serious problems with the Americans, who oppose the giant fjord around Ariel, Immanuel, Kedumim and Karnei Shomron. It was therefore decided to be smart and build only "horseshoes" around the settlements, until "Stage Two." In the meantime there will be a fence with gaps, which will invite terrorism and other destructive acts.

The winding and complicated route of the fence will deepen the hatred among the Palestinians because in addition to the withdrawal from territory and the harsh occupation, which will continue, there will be four fenced-in enclaves that are home to 75,000 Palestinians who will be able to leave only via narrow exits (tunnels, perhaps) in the direction of adjacent towns. That decision is inhumane, immoral and will not go over peacefully with the international institutions.

The winding fence cannot be built rapidly, due to its enormous costs and its problematic path. It will therefore also not be able to fulfill its main purpose: preventing terrorism within the Green Line, and will also not aid economic recovery. Palestinians are already crossing the fence and are constantly trying to damage it.

A fence along the Green Line would be cheaper, much faster to build and would not arouse any opposition from the world. It would be able to fulfill its security role in preventing acts of terror in the heart of Israel, and the economy would hence be able to recover. Such a non-political fence would be able to stay in place until the peace negotiations, and then could be moved in keeping with the agreements.

The only minister to express this courageous position was Meir Sheetrit, who did not hesitate to confront Sharon. Sheetrit suggested erecting the fence along the shortest route, in straight lines, along the Green Line, but Sharon rebuked him in his insulting style.

Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu competed with Sharon for who would be the most radical, who would include more and more territory inside the fence. Netanyahu was not willing to suffice with the crazy route of the current fence, but suggested sending another long snaking fjord into the Hebron region, in order to annex Kiryat Arba too. He likewise proposed building another fence along the western side of the Jordan valley, thus turning the West Bank into a kind of island, split by roads along its length and breadth, with no right to exist. And he thinks the Palestinians will accept that quietly, without increasing their hatred and terrorism.

On the one hand, Netanyahu has succeeded in the economic arena, turning the economy around from free fall to growth, by instituting important reforms and privatizations. But along the way he is destroying the chances via a fence whose purpose is the perpetuation of the occupation, and with it the perpetuation of the war and the terror attacks, which will result in Israel's continued economic, social and moral deterioration.