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Israelis Wrestle With Fence Around Jerusalem
by Judy Lash Balint
January 16, 2005

There are at least 10 moving vans per day taking furniture from A-Ram into Jerusalem proper, states Israel Kimchi, a fellow of the prestigious Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies (JIIS) at a recent briefing on the effects of Israel's anti-terror fence. That's the best Kimchi and his colleagues can do to back up their assertion that there's a sizeable population movement of Arabs into Jerusalem from Arab settlements just outside Jerusalem's municipal boundary, as a result of the fence construction.

"We don't have numbers of those moving," Kimchi admits in answer to a journalist's question, although the newly published JIIS study, �A Fence Around Jerusalem,' is predicated on the idea that Arabs with Israeli ID who live outside the city but work inside, will flock back to establish residence in Jerusalem to avoid the daily hassles at the checkpoints of the security fence.

As a result, Kobi Michael and his JIIS co-authors assert, overcrowding will result, infrastructures will fall apart, crime will grow, frustration and anger will mount and violence will actually increase not decrease, all as a result of that darn fence.

Just to clarify�to date, less than sixty percent of the fence around Jerusalem has been completed. Arab and Israeli leftist organizations have brought legal challenges over almost every meter of the route. In the areas where the fence has been built in northern Samaria about an hour north of the capital, terror attacks are down by 90 per cent.

Another clarification: the photogenic towering concrete barricades shown in the press comprise only three percent of the projected 480 miles of Israel's anti-terrorist barrier. The remaining ninety seven percent is in fact a sophisticated electronic fence, ditch and patrol road combo that's the width of a four-lane highway. Naturally, that won't fit into an urban area. It's also not too effective next to a freeway where terrorists take potshots and kill children traveling with their families. (Noam Leibovitch, 7, of Yemin Orde was murdered in just such a manner on June 18, 2003)

So, back to the doom and gloom scenario for the future of Israel's capital predicted by the think tank scholars. Maybe it's worth mentioning here that the JIIS is the recipient of funds from the Ford Foundation. The respected NGO Watch Group notes that "a number of recipients of Ford funding have continued to take part in anti-Israel activities."

Certainly one cannot accuse the JIIS of being "anti-Israel," but the perspectives of the balding, secular researchers should be called into question on some counts. Study author Michael tells reporters that one of the key problems with the fence around Jerusalem is "that there is a lack of domestic consensus in the Israeli population regarding the Jerusalem fence." No statistics, no polls, no data whatsoever to back up this assertion that stands in direct contradiction to a statement in the Institute's printed study that says: "Among Israelis in general, a large majority favors the building of the fence in principle." The study goes on to cite statistics compiled in October 2003 by the Steinmetz Center of Tel Aviv University, which puts support for the fence at 83 percent of Israel's adult population.

Another facet of the center's research is a face-to-face survey of 1000 Palestinian families in eastern Jerusalem, notes researcher Israel Kimche. "We'll be asking what is the effect of the fence on their lifestyle," he says. Right�and the answers they'll receive will be accurate and truthful. Any Israeli soldier who's served at any checkpoint will tell you how amazing it is that so many Arabs seem to be desperately ill, pregnant or on their way to see a dying relative.

One JIIS fellow, Reuven Merhav, a former director general of Israel's Foreign Ministry, admits that the JIIS had participated in the preparations for the Camp David talks in 2000. Yes, those talks between President Bill Clinton, Yasser Arafat and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak where Barak was ready to give away most of Jerusalem.

So what do the JIIS team suggest to ease the plight of the Palestinians who are being inconvenienced by the fence that's protecting us from their murderous brethren? Well, the good old solution of throwing money at them might help, reason the JIIS thinkers. "Israel should invest more money in east Jerusalem to compensate," says Kimche. To compensate for the disaster scenario painted by his colleague, Michael.

The JIIS is definitely correct in one of it's assessments: Yakov Bar Siman Tov describes the fence and Israel's reaction to "the conflict" as "defensive rather than offensive." He's right�and counting moving trucks doesn't seem to be doing much to help us figure out how to go on the offensive.