In Israel, walls and fences seem to be the rage. Responding to old and new threats, Israel has turned to building more and more walls across and within its borders.
During Ariel Sharon’s tenure as Prime Minister, Israel began to build a wall around itself to seal off the West Bank, which was most likely intended to be the future border between Israel and a Palestinian entity if Sharon had decided to unilaterally disengage from the West Bank.
Much credit is given to this barrier as being a major factor in stemming the number of terrorist attacks originating from the West Bank, though I am of the opinion that these statistics are more the result of a variety of different factors: continued active IDF efforts, relative economic stability, and cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli security apparatus. If there is a will there is a way – terrorists wanting to circumvent the wall have, and will, be able to do so.
Another type of wall recently constructed in Israel is the Iron Dome defense system. This anti-rocket defense system is an incredible technological achievement that has repeatedly shown its worth on countless occasions.
Israel is also constructing a new border fence with Egypt to counter illegal immigration and terrorist infiltration. In light of recent events on the Syrian border, and Assad’s likely demise, the border with Syria will also probably enjoy a renaissance.
While providing Israelis with a wide berth for maneuvering during crises, these walls have also facilitated the creation of a false sense of security, and the illusion that the current stalemate can continue. They seem to have abdicated Israeli leaders from their responsibility for thinking creatively about the challenges Israel faces, first and foremost being a resolution of its majority-minority problem with the Palestinians in the West Bank.
The current election campaigns that are being run are remarkably void of any real initiative for breaking the stalemate with the Palestinians. On the left, the Labor party seems to have decided to focus on social change, while the parties claiming the center of the Israeli political spectrum have placed peace on their campaign street banners without offering any idea on how they plan to achieve this amorphic goal. On the right, a rising group of far-right settler-activists are convinced that Palestinians are no threat anymore and that no one can roll back the 350,000 Jews living in the West Bank.
While Israel closes itself behind walls, the West Bank slowly begins to stir with unrest. Walls have the negative effect of lulling you into a state of defensive passiveness. Yet Israel cannot afford to be led by events, it must actively define them. As we witnessed last month, the Palestinians and the world are moving on, but only Israel seems to be stuck in the patterns of the past.