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July 27, 2004
Dear Friend of FLAME:
Does Israel really need a security fence . . . and is it legal? Below
you'll find a tight, compelling op-ed on this subject by Israeli Finance
Minister and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which appeared
recently in the New York Times. In it, Netanyahu explains why the U.N.
International Court of Justice's recent ruling that Israel's fence is
(at least partially) illegal makes no rational or legal sense. The ICJ
ruling is based on the premise that Israel is occupying land that doesn't
belong to it, land that belongs to the Palestinian people, land that
has defined borders. In fact, the land that Israel has controlled since
it defeated invading Arab armies in 1967 has never belonged to the Palestinians it
was previously controlled by Jordan and Egypt. Indeed the very concept
of a Palestinian people did not exist before 1967. As Netanyahu makes
clear, final borders and disposition of the disputed territories which
Jews call Judea and Samaria will be determined through negotiations
between Israel and a lawful Palestinian authority that accepts Israel's
right to exist. The decision by the ICJ is merely one more attempt by
the Muslim-dominated United Nations to resolve the Middle East conflict
by fiat, instead of by disciplined negotiations.
WHY ISRAEL NEEDS A FENCE
By Benjamin Netanyahu
July 13, 2004, New York Times
JERUSALEM 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. A fence can always be moved. 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
The obstacle to peace is not the fence but Palestinian
unlike past leaders like Anwar Sadat of Egypt and King Hussein of Jordan,
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,
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
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. The Palestinians complain that their children
late to school because of the fence. But too many of our children never
get to school they are blown to pieces by terrorists who pass
into Israel where there is still no fence.
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