Don’t fence me in

By Ted Belman

ted-4.jpgEhud Barak, Israel’s Defense Minister, is now calling for a fence to be built on Israel’s long southern border. When Israel is looking for leadership in dealing with the growing threat from Gaza and Sinai, it pains that this is the best he can offer.

After the First World war, France sought to protect itself from possible German attack in the future by building the expensive Maginot Line. The Germans simply went around it.

Before WWII, Germany built the The Siegfried Line which was much more valuable as a propaganda tool than as a military defence. German propaganda, both at home and abroad, repeatedly portrayed the line during its construction as an unbreachable bulwark. For Germans the building of the line represented the regime’s defensive intentions, whereas for neighbouring countries it appeared threatening and reassuring at the same time. It too was breached.

After Israel captured the Sinai in ’67, she also built the expensive Bar Lev Line along the Suez Canel to prevent any major Egyptian effort to establish bridgeheads on the east bank. In a matter of hours, Egypt breached the line with a massive multidimensional assault.

Many had argued that the idea of the line was counter-intuitive to the strengths of Israeli battle tactics which in their core relied on agile mobile forces moving rapidly through the battlefield rather than utilizing a heavy reliance on fixed defenses.

In response to Intafada II and its suicide bombers, Israel built a security fence to protect Israel from incursion by terrorists and it was demonstrably effective. But many argue the real reason for the success was the counter-terror operations known as Defensive Shield conducted by the IDF in Judea and Samaria. According many argue that there was an ulterior motive to building the fence and that was as an enabler of the two state solution.

Everyone recognized that the Arabs could obviously tunnel under the fence.

The Palestinians argue that they are being fenced in. But the truth is, the Palestinians are being fenced out The Israelis are the ones being fenced in.

When the High Court in Israel was determining the appropriate location of the fence it was held that it was a defensive matter only and not intended to create a border or a land grab. It decided that the law required it to balance Israel’s security needs with the inconvenience to the Arabs. Many times it sided with the Arabs and required the fence to be moved. It never once said in what direction. Every time Israel moved it to the West. This bothered me. If security was the only issue, why not in some cases, move it to the east?

When Israel withdrew from the the Rafah Crossing relying on others to manage it and on a fence to separate Gaza from Sinai, the border was breached by hundreds of tunnels.

Now Israel is facing a growing threat and its Defense Minister is proposing another fence to avoid the necessity of dealing with the threat in a offensive way.

Barak and Olmert have learned nothing.

Israel must preempt, not hunker down.

February 4, 2008 | 2 Comments »

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  1. Protective fortified obstructions should have gone the way of the BarLev Line in Sinai., in 73 war. I think more credit for stopping terrorists attack inside of Israel proper is due more to IDF AND SHABAK, The best defense is an aggressive offense. It is more cost effective as well!

  2. A fence is part of a multi-faceted security framework. A fence can at best make the IDF’s job of detecting terrorist infiltrators and getting to them before they can reach Israel’s cities easier. Ultimately, Israel has to pre-empt the terrorists before they can enter Israel by wiping out their staging areas. No defensive measure by itself can secure Israel from enemies determined to launch lethal attacks upon its citizens.