Arial Sharon and the "Security Fence"
by Regan Boychuk

December 13, 2003

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ince the Bush Administration dropped its opposition to Israel's construction of a series of barriers in the occupied West Bank, [1] there is little left standing in the way of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon unilaterally imposing his long-held vision of the two-state solution.

In fact, what the Israeli government euphemistically refers to as a “security fence” fits perfectly with Sharon's conception of a Palestinian "state."

In an April 2001 interview, Sharon clarified that, even if the Palestinians were to meet all his demands, he would grant them no more than 42 per cent of the occupied West Bank for their "state."

“I did not say 50 per cent,” he reiterated, “I said 42 per cent.” Including the Gaza Strip, Sharon’s “painful concessions” add up to about 10 per cent of Mandate Palestine.

He also emphasized that there would be no relinquishing of the water resources of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), no full sovereignty for a Palestinian state, and no territorial contiguity even for that 42 per cent. [2]

Rhetoric aside, none of Sharon's recent actions has contradicted that vision. Actually, if finished, Israel's separation barrier will write Sharon’s vision in stone.

In March, Sharon announced his intention to extend the barrier along the main mountain ridge west of the Jordan River. [3] He recently reconfirmed this plan. [4]

“The route is being planned now. The moment it will be completed, it will be presented to the government,” Sharon said of the Jordan Valley proposal in a television interview. The cabinet has approved other sections of the separation barrier by large majorities. [5]

If completed, Israel's barrier would carve the OPT into at least three separate cantons/bantustans – disconnected from each other and suspended within the territory Israel claims for itself.

Much of the Palestinian land on the Israeli side of the barrier consists of fertile agricultural land and some of the most important water wells in the region. B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, estimates that the barrier will cause direct harm to at least 210,000 Palestinians living in 67 villages, towns, and cities. [6]

It's hard not to appreciate the similarities between what Sharon and his Likud party now refer to as a Palestinian "state" and their proposals for Palestinian “autonomy” 15 years ago.

After becoming prime minister, Sharon told the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv, “I have not changed my point of view. The only thing I've changed is my opinion that Jordan is Palestine. And this change only occurred because of developments on the ground. I never wanted there to be two Palestinian states.” [7]

Is it a coincidence that Sharon's "vision" of a Palestinian ‘state’ consists of 42 per cent of the West Bank – almost precisely what Israel's barrier will leave Palestinians? No.

“The map of the fence is the same map I saw during every visit Arik [Sharon] made here [Ariel] since 1978,” explained Ron Nachman, mayor of the illegal Israeli settlement of Ariel, near Nablus in the occupied West Bank. “He told me he's been thinking about it since 1973.” [8]

Perhaps Israel's separation barrier will assist in the achievement of the Government's publicly declared goal – preventing suicide bombers from reaching Israel – but Israel's own State Comptroller is not convinced.

According to the Israeli government watchdog, since the beginning of the second Intifada, “IDF documents indicate that most of the suicide terrorists and the car bombs crossed the [Green Line] into Israel through the checkpoints, where they underwent faulty and even shoddy checks.” [9]

Published in July 2002, the Comptroller's findings came a month after the Israeli government's decision to erect the barrier. Yet, as B'Tselem noted, “it appears that no meaningful changes were made to address even some of the problems mentioned by the State Comptroller.

“Rather, the state preferred a more extreme alternative,” constructing the "wall," “that entails numerous human rights violations” rather than improving checkpoint competency. [10]

Incredibly, Israel's “barrier will increase the number of checkpoints between Israel and the West Bank. …If the state does not improve the effectiveness of the checkpoints, a paradoxical situation will arise in which the barrier will increase the danger of attacks within Israel,” B’Tselem remarked. [11]

Not only is the barrier dubious as a security measure, it's also illegal.

Under international law, no territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force can be recognized as legal.

This prohibition is confirmed by UN Security Council resolution 242 (1967) and the Oslo Accords, which provide that the status of the West Bank and Gaza shall not be changed pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations. [12]

Accordingly, a United Nations General Assembly resolution was recently passed 144-4, describing Israel's separation barrier as a contravention of international law and demanding that it halt the present building and reverse those sections already built. [13] Soon the issue will be referred to the International Court of Justice at the Hague.

Since at least 1976, Palestinians have been calling for an independent, economically viable Palestinian state living in peace alongside Israel. [14]

Nonetheless, if Ariel Sharon is able to consolidate the Palestinian land seized as a result of his government's ‘fence’, the land left available for Palestinians will no longer constitute the raw material of a viable state.

Remembering that South Africa failed to fool the world with its Bantustans, Palestinian calls for justice will inevitably to shift to: “One man, one vote!”

Regan Boychuk is a volunteer leader with Palestine Media Watch (www.pmwatch.org) and studies the Middle East and international relations at the University of Calgary, Canada.


[1] Guy Dinmore, “US drops its opposition to Israel’s wall”, Financial Times, 25 October 2003. Available at http://search.ft.com/s03/search/article.html?id=031025001069. See also Ori Nir, “Bush drops opposition to building of barrier”, Forward, 24 October 2003. Available at http://www.forward.com/issues/2003/03.10.24/news1.fence.html.

[2] Ari Shavit, “Sharon is Sharon is Sharon”, Ha'aretz Magazine, 12 April 2001. Text available at http://www.cephasministry.com/israel_sharon_sharon.html.

[3] L'Agence France-Presse, “Israel planning 2nd security fence in West Bank – report”, Jordan Times, 18 March 2003. Text available at http://www.yourmailinglistprovider.com/pubarchive.php?iapinfo+969.

[4] Mark Lavie, “Israel Plans to Extend Security Barrier”,
Associated Press, 24 October 2003. Available at http://www.cbn.com/CBNNews/Wire/031024f.asp.

[5] Greg Myre, “Israel may extend barrier deeper into West Bank”, New York Times, 25 October 2003. Available at
: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/25/international/middleeast/25MIDE.html?pagewanted=printposition.

[6] United Nations Commission on Human Rights, “Report of the special rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights, John Dugard, on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967”, 8 September 2003, p.7. Available at
: http://www.unhchr.ch/pdf/chr60/ECN420046[AE].doc.

[7] Ma'ariv, 13 April 2001 quoted in Azmi Bishara, “Sharon's Palestinian ‘state’”, Al-Ahram Weekly Online, No.648, 24-30 July 2003. Available at http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/print/2003/648/op12.htm. Azmi Bishara is an Arab member of Israel's Knesset.

[8] Quoted in Geoffrey Aronson, “Sharon government's separation plan defines Palestine's provisional borders”, Report on Israeli Settlement in the Occupied Territories, Vol.13, No.4 (July-August 2003), p.1. Available at http://www.fmep.org/reports/2003/is_v13n4.pdf. The Report on Israeli Settlement in the Occupied Territories is published by the Foundation for Middle East Peace [www.fmep.org] and Aronson is perhaps North America's leading authority on Israeli settlement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

[9] State Comptroller, Audit Report on the Seam Area, p.35 cited Yehezkel Lein, “Behind the barrier: Human rights violations as a result of Israel's separation barrier”, B'Tselem, The Israeli information center for human rights in the Occupied Territories, April 2003, p.29.

[10] Lein, “Behind the barrier”, p.29.

[11] Lein, “Behind the barrier”, p.29.

[12] Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, 28 September 1995, Chapter 5, Article XXXI, Paragraph 7.

[13] Graham Usher, “Against the wall”, Al-Ahram Weekly Online, No.661, 23-29 October 2003. Available at http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/print/2003/661/fr1.htm. Usher is the Middle East correspondent for the Economist.

[14] Although little known, January 1976 marks the first UN Security Council proposal supported by the PLO recognizing the right of all states in the region to live in peace and security and endorsing a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The US vetoed the proposal.




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