Thursday, May 21, 2009

Land grab? NO!

Ever since construction of the West Bank barrier began, it has been the subject of controversy and intense debate. Although almost everyone agrees that it does serve to save lives, many people have dismissed the barrier's building as an unnecessarily strong and permanent measure; one that effectively takes away land from Palestinians.

The issue here is one of intent; while Israel claims it's intention is to save lives by denying suicide bombers access to Israeli cities and towns, this has been rejected as a front by Palestinians and anti-Zionists who have dubbed the move a "land grab."

While many accuse the barrier of effectively isolating Palestinians and cutting them off from their land, it is my belief that the West Bank barrier was not designed as a stealthy lang grab, and truly is a worthy method of reducing the effectiveness of terrorism. As recently as last week I mentioned to a member of my family how I can't remember the last time a terrorist infiltrated Israeli security and successfully bombed Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, thank God. During the intifada, terrorism was something Israelis had almost become used to, even though the IDF were doing their best to prevent suicide bombers and the like from entering into Israel. Love it or hate it, the effectiveness of the wall in saving Israeli lives is indisputable.

With this in mind, I was intrigued to read this story on the BBC website yesterday morning. The BBC reports the head of Israel's security service, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin as saying, "there is no security reason for continuing construction of Israel's barrier through the West Bank."

At first my reaction to what I had read was to reject Mr. Diskin's claim out of hand, dismissing him as an ideologically weak officer who had bowed to the pressure of the peace lobby without giving due consideration to Israel's security concerns. But the more I think about the issue, the more I feel compelled to agree with Mr. Diskin. If Israel is experiencing a calm period as a result of the wall, it would seem that the wall is doing it's job and that further building is not necessary.

Moreover, if Israel should halt construction of the barrier now it will conclusively prove to the world that the West Bank barrier is no land grab. While I cannot advocate tearing down the wall just yet - that would be reckless without at least assurances of prevention of terrorism from the Palestinians - I believe Israel is now in a position to halt construction of the barrier. If Israel's security remains as stable as it has been for the last two years or so, then maybe it would be possible to leave the wall as it is, without completing it as originally intended.

Ultimately Israel's most stubborn detractors will most likely continue to deny Israel's stated objectives of the barrier, decrying Israeli actions as an attempt to steal the Palestinians' olive groves and suchlike, but I believe the statement issued by Mr. Diskin proves Israel's real intention. I heard somebody talk about Israel on Sunday, and he said that there are only two ways to judge a country - by what it's officials say and by what it's officials do. What Israel's officials were doing when they commissioned the barrier is still being debated, but what they are saying is indisputable - this is no land grab. I only hope the world pays attention.

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