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Yaakov Hisdai
Photo: Dudi Vaknin
'There are too many signs that all hopes, expectations of fence have collapsed'
Photo: Dudi Vaknin
Fence of deception
With huge cost, no real debate, grandiose plan keeps blowing up in our faces
The failure at Kerem Shalom was first of all an operational one. All military professionals know that self-defense on the battlefield must be all-encompassing. They also know that a parked tank is blind at night; therefore, they require infantry soldiers to guard it.

 

How could it be that all levels of field command in the Gaza region ignored these basic professional principles? How could they have left a tank unguarded at night? How come there was no all-encompassing protection for the tank and the observation point?

 

The answer to these questions lies in a word that has earned a name of disgrace over a period of many years: "concept." But this time, we are not talking about the same sort of concept that blinded Israeli leaders and soldiers on the eve of the Yom Kippur War. But this concept – like its predecessor – was born in sin and has begat disaster.

 

This time, the concept is the fence.

 

Serious ramifications

 

The idea of building a fence between Israel and the Palestinians has some of the most serious security, diplomatic, economic and legal ramifications Israel has ever known. The Supreme Court has dealt with the issue many times, as has the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

 

The project has exacted an enormous economic price tag, and has provided fodder for attacking Israel in the international community. In light of all this, it is important to recall just why we have made all this investment.

 

There is already a fence around the Gaza Strip. When the terror wave began in late 2000, Israeli society felt worried and threatened. It appeared there was no other answer to suicide bombers.

 

This horse of fear and worry displayed by a certain politician whose dance with these elements has destroyed several important institutions. This person is now a senior government minister.

 

Looking for a new horse

 

This politician has been searching for a new horse to ride upon, and found it in the idea of a fence. He sold it to his party, where it's potential to be a great solution that would bring great political reward – and that party began making threats, assisted by the Sharon government.

 

This government, which has not managed to swallow the wave of terror and fear from the public, adopted the idea immediately, and the fence became a first-degree importance project. There was no serious attempt to discern the meaning or repercussions of the project.

 

Several tough questions should have been asked before deciding to build the fence, starting with questions of cost and benefit. What benefits will we get from the project, and what will the cost be?

 

Limited benefit

 

Such an analysis would have made clear that the benefits of the fence are extremely limited. It may stop potential suicide bombers, but it can't stop operations over or under the wall.

 

Even its ability to stop terrorists from completing their missions is limited by time; as long as Palestinians retain their desire to strike us, it is only a question of time until they find a way to get around the barrier.

 

Huge cost

 

Against this temporary and limited advantage is the cost, which currently stands at about NIS 10 billion. Somebody must investigate if there isn't a better use for this money. Today, we know that Shin Bet operations were much more effective in stopping suicide bombings than the wall.

 

Were the money used for the separation fence directed to the Shin Bet, would they not be much more able to gather intelligence? And that is to say nothing of the geographic twists, the international damage, the ruined view and blow to nature, and mainly the terrible hatred heaped on to already strong anti-Israel hatred on the Palestinian side of the fence.

 

Illusory benefit

 

But the fence was an illusion, and the country bought it happily. The "Council for Peace and Security" of IDF officers, distinguished more for their military ranks and past achievements than for their analytical prowess, came up with the moronic phrase "saying goodbye," and the country celebrated this fantastic solution.

 

The fences' success around Gaza was one of the most important proofs for the fences effectiveness. Now, this proof has blown up in our faces.

 

The failure at Kerem Shalom revealed one of the results of this addiction to magic solutions. Building the fence was accompanied by the phrase "Us here, them there.'" That is to say: let's set a border, we will no longer concerned about them, and they will no longer be concerned about u.

 

Turns out that this sweet deception influenced more than the IDF. The Security Fence became a flash point for military operations, and pushed off basic professional principles. They are indeed there – and therefore, there is no need to look back or plan for their attacks.

 

Learning the lessons

 

We must learn from these failures, and the failure at Kerem Shalom must teach us: There is a national interest in the dangers presented by decisions that weren't weighed carefully, and of uncovered deceptions.

 

The fence project was but one part of wide operation, which included the idea of "two states for two peoples," as well as the Road Map Peace Plan. There are too many signs, however, that all the hopes and expectations of the fence have collapsed.

 

But the government lacks imagination and ability, and is mired in an outdated concept. Politicians are selling deception instead of weighing up other options. And so we are all destined to learn the facts of life the hard way.

 

Brig. Gen. (res.) Dr. Yaakov Hisdai is a historian and lawyer

 

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