The Zionist Conspiracy
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Malcolm Hoenlein on the Fence
As I write this, Malcolm Hoenlein is engaged in a Q&A session on Haaretz.
One of the questions directed to Mr. Hoenlein concerns the fence. Given that Hoenlein is a thoughtful advocate for Israel, I'm disappointed in his answer. Here's the exchange:
No Israeli has been able to explain why the wall is not being built along the 1967 Green Line border. This leaves me convinced it is just a ploy to grab more land. Do you agree with the assertion that if Israel returned to the 1967 borders in return for true peace, it would result in true peace within months?
Ravi Inder Singh Noida, India
In fact I think that many Israeli leaders have sought to explain the reasons why the security fence is not built along the 1967 Green Line border, although in many areas, it actually runs very close.
First, the security fence is placed where it can provide the maximum defense against terrorism, providing protection for the largest number of Israelis and Arabs, while limiting the impositions on their daily lives. Were the fence to be on the border, it would be perceived as a victory for terrorism and once again undermine the prospect for negotiations in the future. If the Palestinians perceive that their goals are achieved by failing to rein in terrorism, then there will be no incentive for them to change their policies to end the terror and create the circumstances in which talks with Israel can be undertaken.
Second, there is a need for a security zone should a terrorist penetrate the fence. The IDF would need enough time to reach the area and prevent an attack.
Third, the fence is not a political act - it is a security measure. This was confirmed by the recent High Court decision. Borders will be determined when the two parties can sit together and negotiate.
We have seen in the past how important perception is, i.e. the withdrawal from Lebanon, and that must be taken into account as well. There are many misunderstandings regarding the fence - not a wall - including the fact that it is not a permanent structure but can and has been moved. And when there is peace, can be removed entirely. As we see in the north, it has prevented 90 percent of terrorism and its effectiveness confirmed.
Also, it has brought benefits to Arabs living on both sides of the fence in that it has cut down on criminal activities, drug smuggling, car theft and has yielded economic benefits as people are now shopping in the businesses of the cities on both sides of the fence.
The fence can be reversed. The deaths of a thousand Israelis cannot.
Here's what I don't like about the answer: It fails to make even a passing argument - even implicitly - that Israel has a right to some of the territory it captured in 1967. Hoenlein's argument is only that in some locations the fence is being built outside the '67 borders because of security reasons. While the response does not concede that a peace arrangement would be based on the '67 borders, it wastes an opportunity to remind readers that Israel has a right under UN Resolution 242 to "secure borders," and that the '67 borders were and are far from secure.
The areas that the fence is expected to deviate from the Green Line tend to be locations that Israel wants to permanently retain, such as Ma'aleh Adumim, Givat Ze'ev and other Jerusalem suburbs, Gush Etzion, areas near Ben Gurion airport, and possibly Ariel and the rest of western Samaria.
Hoenlein might respond that publicly stating that the fence is being built outside the Green Line for purposes of retaining some territory would be adverse to Israel's interests, because it validates the contention of Israel's critics that the fence is an effort to strengthen Israel's control of Judea and Samaria.
There is merit to that position. Ultimately, however, if Israel and its supporters never articulate that it has a right to retain territory outside the '67 borders, the inevitable result will be that no disputed territory will be retained, not even parts of Judea and Samaria once regarded as inevitable to be annexed. Already, communities like Beit El and Ofra, which Ehud Barak continually promised to annex, are expected to be ceded, while the future of Ariel is in doubt, despite its 20,000 residents.
We need not be apologetic or defensive when it is charged that Israel seeks to annex parts of Judea and Samaria. It isn't really a secret, and assertion of Israel's rights to secure borders is not only appropriate, but essential.
Incidentally, when I first read Hoenlein's response, I figured he had to frame it as he did, because he serves as executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations and needs to express a consensus position. However, elsewhere in the forum, he states, "let me make clear that I do not purport to speak for anyone but myself in this forum."