The New Arab Logo

Breaking News
Israel builds walls for politics, not security Open in fullscreen

Daoud Kuttab

Israel builds walls for politics, not security

Israeli construction on the cement wall deep in the West Bank began in 2002 [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 6 February, 2019

Share this page:
  • 0

  • twitter
Comment: Trump's use of Israel's wall as an example shows he has completely misunderstood its purpose, writes Daoud Kuttab.
The attempts by US president Donald Trump to use the wall Israel built in the West Bank to defend his southern border wall, are a manipulation of the reality on the ground in Palestine/Israel.

Sure, there is a wall in the West Bank, and yes attacks have decreased, but the wall is not the reason for this. The Israeli built wall is actually intended to soothe Israeli concerns, rather than to stop individual's from crossing it.

In fact, Israel appears to prefer an electronic fence over a cement wall. This fact became clear this week, when Israel began erecting a
six metre high electronic fence along the Gaza border.

In addition to the barbed wire fence that will be separating Gaza and Israel, the Israeli army has built a two-metre high fence with electronic sensors, ditches and military watchtowers along the Gaza periphery.

But barriers, whether cement or slabs or wire fences, need a monitoring system; either physical or electronic. Israeli security officials know that a cement wall actually impairs their vision and makes the job of protecting a border even harder, and that's why, where it counts - in Gaza - they've opted for a see-through fence and not a wall, exactly what many security officials and elected representatives in the US are recommending to President Trump.

The Kometz Unit, one of the anonymous units of the Israeli army and responsible for all of Israel's border fences, from north to south, employs several technologies and fence types. "We have five fence models erected, capable of generating an alert in the event of an intrusion into Israeli territory," Maj. Yakir Sela the Technology and Logistics officer of the Israeli army told Israel Defence magazine in 2018.

When US president Donald Trump used the Israeli example to defend his wall, he wasn't referring to the various Israeli border barriers

Danny Tertza, a colonel in the Israel army in charge of strategic planning from 1994-2007 echoed a similar idea regarding the form of borders Israel uses. He told Forbes in 2017 that "Israel deploys a phalanx of other technologies along its fences, including balloons with cameras, infrared sensors and radar that can see for miles around.

Most of the time they run on autopilot, sending back live video to base. Newer models are built on Ford F-350 trucks and feature remote-controlled machine guns."

Clearly then, when US president Donald Trump used the Israeli example to defend his wall, he wasn't referring to the various Israeli border barriers but rather to the cement wall built in highly populated locations deep in the West Bank.

"If you really want to find out how effective a wall is, just ask Israel," Trump said in an extraordinary exchange in front of the press. "[It's] 99.9 percent effective and our wall will be every bit as good as that, if not better."

What the US president doesn't know, or doesn't admit to, is that the West Bank cement wall, was built for political, not security reasons. It was built to give the Israeli population, especially Netanyahu's right-wing supporters, a sense of security, despite the fact that Israeli security officials believe that a mix of barriers is much more effective than a cement wall.

Efraim Inbar, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Israel's Bar-Ilan University and President of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, stressed in an interview in January 2019 that the West Bank barrier "was built primarily because of popular pressure during the Second Intifada."

Israeli construction on the cement wall deep in the West Bank began in 2002, a year which according to Israeli government statistics, saw a record 55 suicide bombing attacks inside Israel.

Attacks did go down slightly in the following years, but Israeli intelligence's  annual figures
showed a much more considerable drop in attacks for 2005. The independent Israeli daily, Haaretz quoted the Israeli intelligence branch as commenting that the wall was not the reason for the reduction. "The main reason for the reduction in terrorist acts was the Hamas truce, and the organisation's focus on the political arena."

The Israeli group, A Fence for Life has admitted that, "the lack of attacks is fundamentally due to "the Palestinians' choice" citing that many Palestinians still breach the walls and fences to seek employment in Israel thus it would be easy for a determined attacker to infiltrate, but that those behind the attacks have chosen not to carry out attacks for a host of reasons, none of which are the existence of any barrier.

It was built to give the Israeli population, especially Netanyahu's right-wing supporters, a sense of security

Other than the fact that the Israeli-built cement wall deep in occupied Palestinian lands lacks of effectiveness, the International Criminal Court ruled in July 2004 that it is "illegal", and that the location of the wall is on "occupied territories of another state". At the same time, the ruling asserted that "Israel has other ways to defend itself."

The US president can use the Israeli example as many times as he wants, but the reality is that where it counts, ie. in the Gaza strip, Israeli security forces have chosen not to use a cement wall, but to deploy various technological and human assets to stop Palestinians from crossing into Israel.

Daoud Kuttab is an award-winning Palestinian journalist and former Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University. 

Follow him on Twitter: @daoudkuttab

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

The New ArabComments

Most Popular

Most Popular

    Read More