2004 April 08 Thursday
12 Year Old Palestinian Boy With Explosive Belt Illustrates Need For Barrier

Here's a story I've been meaning to post about for a couple of weeks. It illustrates just what an unfun job it must be to be an Israeli soldier in the Palestinian territories. Using a robot the IDF soldiers managed to get the explosives belt off the boy without killing him.

Israel Defense Forces paratroopers caught a Palestinian boy, aged 12, wearing an explosive belt at the Hawara roadblock south of Nablus in the West Bank on Wednesday afternoon.

Sappers used a remote-controlled robot to remove the belt from the boy's body and then safely detonated it in a controlled explosion.

The boy was taken in for questioning.

The belt failed to go off because of a flaw in its construction. What the Israelis need for this sort of situation are fast robots that could speed out to stop a suicide bomber sprinting toward them.

That a 12 year old could be talked into being a suicide bomber illustrates just how difficult it must be to be an Israeli soldier stationed at a West Bank roadblock. Even a child can be an enemy. The Israelis need to finish their wall and isolate themselves from the Palestinians.

Speaking of the wall to separate Israel from the West Bank Palestinians, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (which I've only just recently discovered and know little about) has an interesting article by David Makovsky which he originally wrote for Foreign Affairs on why the fence is necessary but also why it must be built in a way that does not treat the Palestinians unfairly.

The idea of a fence separating Israelis and Palestinians is,on one level,an admission of failure. Yet it is also realistic:with little trust between the two sides and a history of bitterness and bloodshed,a negotiated partition is out of reach (at least for the foreseeable future). Israel �s decision to build a �separation barrier,�therefore,makes sense, given that a majority of both Israelis and Palestinians favor a two-state solution that includes an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank � but they don �t know how to make this happen.Israelis do not trust the Palestinian Authority (PA) to fulfill its security obligations and halt terrorist attacks,and Palestinians remain convinced that Israel will never voluntarily cede the West Bank and Gaza.

A properly constructed fence could cut through these problems and facilitate a final agreement. A poorly constructed barrier,how- ever,would impede such an end. The United States should therefore back a version of the fence that boosts Israeli security without unduly hurting the Palestinians or foreclosing a future return to diplomacy. Washington should also support vigorous, innovative moves to minimize whatever Palestinian suffering even a legitimate fence would cause. And the United States must oppose Israeli fence plans that focus more on politics than on security.

A properly constructed fence could achieve multiple objectives: reduce violence by limiting the in filtration of suicide bombers into Israel, short-circuit the deadlock on achieving a two-state solution,advance the debate in Israel about the future of most settlements, and perhaps even provide an incentive for Palestinians to return to the negotiating table. Even without negotiation, the fence would function as a provisional border and could be modified in the future if Palestinians make real progress in halting terrorism against Israel and agree to restart talks. The good news, moreover, is that a fair, workable fence is already being built by Israel �s Ministry of Defense. Projected to stand largely on the western side of the West Bank,this fence will potentially leave 85 percent of the West Bank to the Palestinians �not radically less than the 95 percent proposed by Bill Clinton at the end of his presidency. If the Palestinians assume their security responsibilities in the territory from which Israel withdraws,this land could become part of the state of Palestine in fairly short order. Already,the construction of this fence has helped spur responsible political discussions in Israel, and a full-blown debate is now underway on the futility of retaining remote settlements in the West Bank. Even Ehud Olmert, the usually hawkish Likud cabinet minister, has declared that Israel should evacuate all settlements east of the new divide.

The bad news, however, is that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has not ruled out a more restrictive and invasive version of the security fence,one that would carve up the West Bank into Palestinian cantons. A major battle within the Likud over where the fence should run is just beginning. Territorial maximalists are pushing hard for an �encirclement fence � that would close the Palestinians in on all sides.Such a barrier,which would give the Palestinians control of just 53 percent of the West Bank, would choke any future state, not help create one. Palestinians,not to mention most of the rest of the world, would never accept such an arrangement.

Hence the need for U.S. involvement to push for a pragmatic fence is now more urgent than ever. In evaluating proposed paths for the fence, the United States should be guided by issues of security, demography, and the minimization of hardship on all sides, and by whether the fence allows for or precludes a contiguous Palestinian state.The buffer fence currently under construction would pass these tests. The encirclement fence advocated by some in Likud, however, would not.

Godo fences make good neighbors. Makovsky has written a good article the need for a fence that is strong enough to serve as a barrier between Israel and the West Bank Palestinians.

If you have Macromedia Flash installed (or your browser prompts you for it and you accept to install it) you can check out a really neat Flash graphic of different wall proposals and dividing lines. It is interactive. You can turn on multiple boundaries or just one. Click on the various round circle choices to turn them on or off and watch the colors for differnet boundaries be drawn and undrawn. You can also see those maps on the 11th page of the PDF.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 April 08 01:31 AM  MidEast Arabs Versus Israelis

gc_emeritus said at April 9, 2004 3:15 PM:


if you click on the map's sources link in the lower left corner, the "source" for the encirclement fence's geometry is the PLO.

in other words, i don't believe it.

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