- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 26, 2003

At a time when the United States and its allies are preparing their military might for a possible battlewith Iraq, the latest statement attributed to Osama bin Laden (the infamous leader of the international network of al Qaeda terror movement operating in 80 countries) that Muslims should unite against the "evil crusader coalition" is another stark reminder that the war against terrorism intensifies.
Indeed, leaders of affiliated terrorist groups are also escalating their education in hatred and inciting violence against their adversaries. Nowhere is this current trend of propaganda and psychological warfare more evident than in connection with the ongoing al-Aksa intifada, now on the eve of the Jan. 28 Israeli national elections. Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the founder of Hamas (the Islamic Resistance Movement,) whose covenant advocates "holy terrorism," has recently declared: "Our resistance is not going to stop, before the election, during the election or after the election…. It will move forward until victory or martyrdom."
How do you stop Palestinian children armed with knives from infiltrating the northern Gaza Strip Jewish settlement of Netzarim? Or intercept gunmen attacking Israeli civilian motorists traveling the West Bank roads, killing and injuring men, women and children? Or prevent a suicide bombing that killed 22 people and wounded 100 others (many of them foreign workers) in Tel Aviv?
One of the most hotly debated counterterrorism strategies is the contention a wall of separation between Israel and Palestine can improve security and ultimately lead to reactivation of the peace process. More specifically, in an effort to reduce the threat of Palestinian terrorism to Israel's security within the "Green Line" (Israel proper), and to protect some of the Jewish settlers in the West Bank, the Israeli government decided to construct a barrier of some 115 kilometers close to northern portions of the Green Line. Another section of the fence is planned for the Jerusalem area. Although construction of the fence began last year and recently accelerated the issue of building a barrier to improve security for the Jewish state has been extremely controversial.
Some historical and political background is instructive. The West Bank is that portion of the British-administered Palestine Mandate conquered by Jordan during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. This territory was subsequently annexed by the Hashemite Kingdom and then captured by Israel in the June 1967 war. As a result of the 1993 Oslo agreement, between Israel and the PLO, part of the West Bank was handed over to Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority. Currently, Israel is reoccupying major Palestinian population centers other than Jericho in response to waves of terrorist attacks launched from the West Bank.
What is popularly known as the "Green Line," separating the West Bank from Israel, was established by the Armistice Agreement between Israel and Jordan in 1949. This line was not intended to be either a final or temporary political border between the two countries. The location of the line made no sense as a political border. For example, for 19 years the line divided Jerusalem, precluding Jews from worshiping at the Western Wall, the most holy site for Judaism. It divided other communities and reached to within 11 miles of Tel Aviv, Israel's largest population center.
Indeed, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, of Nov. 22, 1967, called upon Israel to withdraw its armed forces "from territories occupied in the recent conflict." Arab states sought to require that Israel withdraw to the pre-1967 lines. They argued the resolution should specify that the withdrawal be from "all the territories." This contention was rejected in part because the resolution also required that "all states in the area… live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries." The Green Line boundaries were manifestly not secure. But what will these "secure" final borders look like?
The Israelis themselves are deeply divided on this issue. Vocal opponents of building a fence are the Jewish settlers in the West Bank who object to being separated from the Israelis living within the Green Line.
On the other hand, there are those that believe the only solution to the terrorist challenge is to dismantle the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Then there are specific proposals by Israeli independent strategic thinkers, such as Dan D. Schuestan at Jerusalem Shalom Center, that are ambitious, comprehensive and controversial.
His proposal could involve 400 miles of fence. It would carve out an area east of Tel Aviv to give Israel slightly increased defense in depth and to protect the environs of Ben-Gurion Airport, Israel's only international airport.
The fence would include West Bank settlements near Jerusalem in its protected zone. Depending on how it would be configured, 10,000 Palestinians and 30,000 Israelis would end up, from their point of view, on the "wrong side" of the fence. This aspect of the plan presents a difficult political problem for Israel's Likud government seeking re-election later this week. Abandoning 30,000 settlers at this time could be regarded as making concessions in the face of terrorism. It would also suggest that Jews could not live secure lives in portions of the West Bank controlled by Palestinians, whereas Palestinians live in Israel with full political rights.
The Schueftan plan also contemplates a corridor across the Jordan River Valley to Jericho, connecting to Jordan. Through this corridor, Palestinians could travel freely to any place in the world and persons and cargoes en route to the West Bank and Israel could be searched for arms and contraband. This critical aspect of the plan distinguishes the wall of separation from the Berlin Wall, which was intended to keep East Germans within the Iron Curtain. The proposed Israeli wall of separation, by virtue of the "Jericho corridor," would permit Palestinians to travel anywhere in the world.
In sum, separation walls are only a temporary counterterrorism response. It is clear, however, that no rapprochement, let alone settlement, of the Palestinian-Israeli confrontation is likely to emerge before both parties are persuaded to erase from their hearts and minds the real or imagined threats they present each other. This would require ending terrorism, mounting an educational effort of peace, culture and coexistence cooperation.
The Schueftan plan has many technical problems that will need to be resolved. However, it may be the best temporary solution to an intractable problem.

Yonah Alexander and Edgar H. Brenner are co-directors of the Inter-University Center for Legal Studies, at the International Law Institute in D.C.

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