Bad Neighbors

“Good fences make good neighbors,” wrote the American poet Robert Frost. But not this fence, if it ever gets built. It is designed to keep out bad neighbors, people that Israelis never want to see again.


(A version of this column appeared in Haaretz on June 25, 2002.)

The government has decided to build the fence. On the Green Line, or west of the Green Line, Alfei Menashe walled in or walled out, only in Samaria or also in Judea, and how is Jerusalem to be “enveloped” – all that is still to be decided as the project proceeds. But the fencing project has commenced; Palestinians are being fenced out and Israelis are being fenced in. But don’t hold your breath, the project is expected to take a year to complete.

“Good fences make good neighbors,” wrote the American poet Robert Frost. But not this fence, if it ever gets built. It is designed to keep out bad neighbors, people that Israelis never want to see again. Those that come to blow up children on their way to school, mothers with their babies, the elderly attending the Pesach seder.

But it is intended not only to keep the terrorists out. Also the other Palestinians who seem to relish these murderous deeds and give them their support. The suicide-bomber culture has made them too abhorrent. It is intended as a parting of the ways for Israelis and Palestinians. Gone is the dream of the “new Middle East,” the fantasy of a peaceful friendly Palestinian state living next door to Israel, of economic integration between Israel and the Palestinians. Israelis ask themselves, who needs another terrorist state in the Middle East, a potential ally of the terrorist trio – Iraq, Syria, and Iran. Whose interests is that going to serve?

Our Palestinian neighbors have revealed themselves as a bloodthirsty lot supporting the most heinous crimes committed against Jewish civilians. To those Israelis who had not forgotten the bloody Arab riots of past decades, this may not have come as a surprise. But many Israelis hoped that the Palestinian Arab population had become more westernized over the years. That through contact with Israel western values and norms had begun to penetrate Palestinian society. That economic integration with Israel, bringing with it higher living standards, would lead to abandonment of past animosities and hate. But this rosy colored vision has exploded in our faces together with the hundreds of victims of Palestinian terror.

“Before I built a wall, I’d ask what I was walling in or walling out,” wrote Robert Frost. The wall to be built is going to wall in the Israeli Arab population and separate them from the Palestinian population in Judea and Samaria. Up until the Oslo Accords, Israel’s Arab population accepted Israel’s position that Yasser Arafat and the PLO were enemies of the state of Israel and generally observed the law that forbade contact with them. When the Oslo Accords provided legitimacy for Arafat and the PLO, the barriers to contact with them were removed and support for their cause began to grow among the Arab population. Today many of Israel’s Arab population openly support Arafat and the PLO, demonstrate hostility to Israel, while the number of Israeli Arabs carrying out acts of terror and aiding Palestinian suicide bombers to carry out their murderous missions is on the increase.

For many years, the great majority of Israel’s Arab population demonstrated loyalty in times of war and in times of peace, gradually undergoing a process of integration into Israeli society and assimilating the western norms prevalent in Israel. This process has been reversed by the Oslo Accords that brought about frequent contacts between Israeli Arabs and the Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, as well as legitimizing support for the PLO. A continuation of this process bodes ill for Jews and Arabs alike in Israel. The fence, when constructed, may halt this process. If so, it will be an important, even if unintended, benefit.

The fence, or wall, or obstacles of other sorts, will in certain places make it more difficult for Palestinian terrorists to approach Israel’s population centers. Its proponents, who have tried to turn it into a political issue, have greatly exaggerated its effectiveness. In any case, its completion is likely to take about a year. It is vital to stop the Palestinian terrorist rampage long before that.

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