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Does the security fence provide security?

The Israeli security forces’ success in thwarting terrorism is due to ongoing daily efforts deep in Judea and Samaria, not along the fence.

Israeli soldiers at a breach in the security fence, near Hebron, May 23, 2021. Photo by Wisam Hashlamoun.
Israeli soldiers at a breach in the security fence, near Hebron, May 23, 2021. Photo by Wisam Hashlamoun.
Gershon Hacohen
Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen

True, the terrorist who carried out last week’s attack in Bnei Brak had crossed into Israel through a breach in the security fence. On the other hand, the terrorist who carried out the deadly suicide bombing in Haifa’s Maxim restaurant in 2003 had entered the country legally.

Demands by the public to fix the breaches in Israel’s security fence stem from a legitimate desire for safety, but are based on the false promises of those who built the fence in the first place. The fence on its own cannot completely prevent illegal entries.

Unless a barrier is closely monitored along its entire length and at all times, it cannot be 100% effective. The Israel Defense Forces and the Israel Police never had the manpower required for this.

About two years ago, I published a detailed study on the subject, that concluded that the security barrier was a political ruse, exploiting the fear of terrorism to unilaterally establish a political border.

While barriers undoubtedly have tactical applications, they are not strategic tools. Moreover, the success of the Israel Defense Forces and the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) in suppressing terrorism since 2002’s “Operation Defensive Shield” has been primarily due to ongoing daily efforts deep in Judea and Samaria, rather than the barrier.

In the ongoing debate in Israel between those who advocate for a withdrawal to the Green Line and those who propose extending sovereignty to part of Judea and Samaria, the decision to build the fence was a highly significant shift in the direction of withdrawal. Its architects foresaw a solution in two stages: first, a barrier would be built with the military operating on both sides, then the IDF would be deployed only along the Israeli side, thus creating a de facto border.

The security fence is one of the most prolonged and expensive projects that Israel has ever carried out. Its cost thus far is estimated at more than 15 billion shekels (over $4 billion), and its adverse implications for Israel’s future borders are of profound significance.

The funds the police so desperately seek for additional manpower are to be found in the budget allocated to repair the fence. From the beginning, the number one priority should have been to properly equip our forces, as portable power is superior.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen is a senior research fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He served in the IDF for 42 years, commanding troops in battles with Egypt and Syria. He was formerly a corps commander and commander of the IDF Military Colleges.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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