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Checkpoints set up after attacks Photo: EPA
Checkpoints set up after attacks Photo: EPA

Israel, invest in big fences

Op-ed: Oslo dreams of ‘New Mideast’ long gone; Israel must surround itself with fences

Yigal Walt
Published: 08.19.11, 00:04 / Israel Opinion

Thursday’s bloody terror offensive in southern Israel marks the second time in recent months where the Jewish state had been caught off guard in the face of infiltration. Earlier this year, unarmed masses breached the Syrian border with incredible ease, roaming freely in Israeli territory for long hours. This time around, the consequences were much graver.


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Israel’s porous boundaries have devastating strategic implications. In the south, the largely unguarded border had been maligned by human trafficking, drug smuggling, a growing wave of illegal immigration, and most recently terrorist infiltration. The border issue may soon become over more acute on the most basic level, with Palestinians potentially marching towards Israel en masse in the wake of a UN declaration of statehood.


As Ehud Barak famously declared in the past, Israel is akin to a “villa in the jungle,” struggling survived amid a sea of brutality, hostility and backwardness. This observation appears more relevant than ever these days with the Middle East sinking into unprecedented chaos. Moreover, as recent events taught us, regional developments unrelated to Israel may prompt Arab aggression aimed at our borders.


In the abovementioned Syrian case, Assad broke from tradition by allowing masses of local Palestinian refugees to reach the border area, in an apparent attempt to draw attention away from atrocities committed against his own people. Similarly, Thursday’s offensive in the south appears to have some connection to growing tensions in the Sinai Peninsula and the struggle between terror groups and Egypt’s rulers.


Mideastern Affairs expert Guy Bechor noted that local Bedouins in the Sinai are cooperating with Jihadist groups currently flourishing in the area and fighting Egyptian troops. These Global Jihad forces have much in common with Gaza’s terrorists, producing a lethal, explosive brew. Indeed, the Sinai today is one of the world’s most dangerous regions, Bechor warns.


Yet another volatile front is the Lebanese border, which may erupt at any time as result of external considerations, be it Iran’s efforts to draw attention away from its nuclear program or a Hezbollah diversion in the wake of the Hariri tribunal and charges that group members were behind the former PM’s assassination.


Given this grim regional reality, Israel must take action, quickly. The halcyon days of Oslo and dreams of a “New Middle East” and open borders between Israel and its neighbors are long gone; instead, we are facing a Mideast that is crueler and more dangerous than ever. As it did in the face of Palestinian murderousness in the past decade, Israel’s government must embark on a national project aimed at building large, effective fences around much of the country.


The notion of fences may be unsavory to many of us, but ignoring reality would not be a wise move. Should we fail to protect our villa by all means necessary, we shall find ourselves increasingly vulnerable to the Arab jungle around us.



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