On October 6, 1973, Israel was attacked by the combined forces of Egypt and Syria. It was Yom Kipper, the most sacred day in the Jewish calendar. Egypt began as Israel had, with an air attack. On the ground, Israel was outnumbered six to one, fielding only about 200,000 soldiers against a combined force of over 1,150,000 Arab troops. Once again, the Soviet Union was involved, sending over 1,000 tons of weapons and ammunition to Egypt and Syria during the early days of the war. The United States was forced to intervene. On October 13, President Richard Nixon ordered an airlift of military supplies, enabling Israel to sustain its forces. After initial success, the war had gone against the Arabs and eventually Egyptian President Anwar Sadat appealed to the Soviet Union to save them. Following negotiations in Moscow on October 21, U.S. Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger flew to Tel Aviv where he obtained Israeli Prime Minister Golda Mier's agreement for a cease-fire. By October 22nd, the war was over.
Since the end of formal hostilities in 1973, the attacks on Israel from its hostile neighbors have been replaced by shadowy groups that rely more on terror tactics than infantry and tanks. First the PLO, which led to Israel's invasion of Southern Lebenon in 1982 and subsequently Hizbollah, which was formed in 1983, and Hamas in 1988. Both of these groups had, as their stated intention, the murder of every Jew and the destruction of the state of Israel and its allies. It was after twenty years of these terrorist tactics, and the lives of hundreds of innocent Israelis, that Israel began to consider building a fence around its borders. It would be almost another ten years before it finally implemented this tactic.
Israel's decision to build a wall separating itself from external threats has become a controversial one. Seen within Israel as the best chance to reduce or eliminate terrorism, and solidify the border between the Jewish state and the Palestinian state, it is viewed by much of the outside world as a symbol of oppression. According to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the fence, "is not a political border. It is not a security border but rather another means to assist in the war against terror, and greatly assist in stopping illegal aliens." Palestinians, however, have a different view, seeing the fence as a prison that would encircle them and leave Israel with control over entry in and out. According to Michael Tarazi of the PLO's negotiations support unit,
This just confirms that the Wall is not to separate the West Bank from Israelis, it's to separate Palestinians into their reservation. It means that the Israelis will take control of our border with Jordan and what remains of the best agricultural land we have. The Wall near the green line has already taken a lot of our best land and now they are going to do the same with what remains in the Jordan valley.
Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a frequent writer about the Middle East, has called it "politicide against the Palestinians -- helping turn Palestinian communities into dungeons, next to which the bantustans of South Africa look like symbols of freedom, sovereignty and self-determination." He further states that, "it is misleading to call these Israeli policies. They are American-Israeli policies -- made possible by unremitting United States military, economic and diplomatic support of Israel."
This is the problem for the United States. In most of the world, Israel is viewed as a proxy state for the U.S.; certainly support of Israel is no secret. Since the inception of the Jewish state, the U.S. has been its constant ally. Therefore, whatever Israel does is seen as operating with the tacit approval of the U.S.
The current structure being erected is not the first attempt to protect Israel from attacks by building fences. On May 29, 1938, the British under the leadership of Sir Charles Taggert began building a wall along the Lebanese border that was designed to protect Jewish settlers and British soldiers from attacks by Arab bands. This wall was called the Taggert Wall after the British counter terrorism expert who had gained his experience as a member of the British police force in India. He came to Palestine to coordinate the various security services, and erected a security fence along the northern border to prevent the infiltrations of terrorists. The structure managed to anger both the Jewish and Arab settlers, as it crossed pastureland and private property. After the threat from outlaw bands was over, the wall was dismantled. Later, in 1983, after the Israeli Defense Forces occupation in southern Lebenon was ended, a wall was built on the same border.
In 1993, in an attempt to prevent suicide bombers from entering into Israel from Gaza, Prime Minister Rabin ordered a fence erected to close off this area. The Jewish and Arab populations were effectively sealed off from each other. Roadblocks were set up and Arab workers were prevented from crossing the border to work in Israel. "The wall Israeli General Vilnai built around Gaza has dampened security problems, but he says that cooping up Gaza residents will bring political and economic costs. 'The flow of workers to Israel must continue,' he says."
In May of 2002, as the frequency of suicide attacks increased, the Israeli government decided to begin building a partial fence along the green line (pre-1967 War) borders with the West Bank. As early as 1994, under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, plans for the fence were discussed in Israel. A similar fence built in 1993 had been successful in preventing infiltration from the much smaller Gaza strip. Many in Israel continue to be angry over the delay, saying that hundreds of lives could have been saved had the fence been built in 1994 when it was originally proposed. In a speech in June 2003, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak criticized the Israeli government for dragging its feet and not building the Wall sooner.
Construction on the fence began in July. The Wall will follow the Green Line, roughly the border before the 1967 war which separates Israel from the West Bank. In certain areas, however, the line will cut east into the West Bank to cover large Jewish settlements. In addition to the fence itself, there will be electronic monitoring devices placed around it and guardhouses at periodic intervals. In areas of high population, the fence is replaced by a wall to prevent Palestinians from shooting through the fence.
On October 1, 2003, the Israeli cabinet voted to extend the West Bank security fence, with the Ministry of Defense for the first time, publishing its planned route for the entire 250-mile section of fence along the western edge of the West Bank. Prime Minister Sharon went on Israeli television and told the world that he planned to extend the fence around the West Bank, separating the Jordan Valley from Jordan.
The United Nations (UN) General Assembly reacted with several resolutions calling for an end to the Wall and the Israelis reacted by saying it would ignore the resolutions. On October 26, 2003, Palestinians living near the fence were ordered to obtain special permits in order to continue living there. In November, the fence was condemned by both the European Union and Secretary General of the UN, and the next month the UN General Assembly passed a resolution to send this issue to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague to determine legality under international law. On July 9, 2004, the ICJ ruled that the barrier was illegal under international law and must be torn down. Palestinians who had been harmed by the fence were ordered to be compensated. Later that month, on July 19th, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution adopting the Court's ruling. Israel ignored these actions by the UN.
On July 16, 2004, Ambassador John Danforth, U.S. Representative to the United Nations, speaking against the proposed resolution, issued a statement saying,
The resolution before us and the opinion of the International Court of Justice it endorses point away from a political solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict that would embody the vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. We must reject the resolution.
If there is to be a solution to the tragedy of the Middle East, it must be political, entailing the agreement by both parties to a reasonable compromise. The judicial process is not the political process, and the International Court of Justice was not the appropriate forum to resolve this conflict.
The nature of a political solution is balance. The claims of each side must be accommodated, or there can be no agreement.
The resolution before us is not balanced. It is wholly one-sided. It does not mention the threat terrorists pose to Israel. It follows a long line of one-sided resolutions adopted…