By Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s finance minister and a former prime minister.
New York Times, July 13, 2004.
While the advisory finding by the International Court of Justice last week that
Israel’s barrier in the West Bank is illegal may be cheered by the terrorists who
would kill Israeli civilians, it does not change the fact that none of the
arguments against the security fence have any merit.
First, Israel is not building the fence on territory that under international law can
be properly called “Palestinian land.” The fence is being built in disputed
territories that Israel won in a defensive war in 1967 from a Jordanian
occupation that was never recognized by the international community.
Israel and the Palestinians both claim ownership of this land. According
to Security Council Resolution 242, this dispute is to be resolved by a
negotiated peace that provides Israel with secure and recognized boundaries.
Second, the fence is not a permanent political border but a temporary security
barrier. Recently, Israel removed 12 miles of the fence to ease Palestinian daily
life. And last month, Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the government to reroute
20 more miles of the fence for that same purpose.
In fact, the indefensible line on which many have argued the fence
should run – that which existed between Israel and the Arab lands before the
1967 war – is the only line that would have nothing to do with security and
everything to do with politics. A line that is genuinely based on security would
include as many Jews as possible and as few Palestinians as possible within the
fence. That is precisely what Israel’s security fence does.
By running into less than 12 percent of the West Bank, the fence will
include about 80 percent of Jews and only 1 percent of Palestinians who live
within the disputed territories. The fence thus will block attempts by terrorists
based in Palestinian cities to reach major Israeli population centers.
Third, despite what some have argued, fences have proven highly effective
against terrorism. Of the hundreds of suicide bombings that have taken place in
Israel, only one has originated from the Gaza area, where Hamas and Islamic
Jihad are headquartered.
Why? Because Gaza is surrounded by a security fence. Even though it is
not complete, the West Bank security fence has already drastically reduced the
number of suicide attacks.
The obstacle to peace is not the fence but Palestinian leaders who have yet to
abandon terrorism and the illegitimate goal of destroying Israel. Should Israel
reach a compromise with a future Palestinian leadership committed to peace
that requires adjustments to the fence, those changes will be made. And if that
peace proves genuine and lasting, there will be no reason for a fence at all.
Instead of placing Palestinian terrorists and those who send them on trial, the
United Nations-sponsored international court placed the Jewish state in the
dock, on the charge that Israel is harming the Palestinians’ quality of life. But
saving lives is more important than preserving the quality of life. Quality of life
is always amenable to improvement. Death is permanent.
In the last four years, Palestinian terrorists have attacked Israel’s buses, cafes,
discos and pizza shops, murdering 1,000 of our citizens. Despite this
unprecedented savagery, the court’s 60-page opinion mentions terrorism only
twice, and only in citations of Israel’s own position on the fence.
Because the court’s decision makes a mockery of Israel’s right to defend
itself, the government of Israel will ignore it. Israel will never sacrifice Jewish
life on the debased altar of “international justice.”