Beyond Images Challenging myths and presenting facts about Israel 

The case for Israel’s security fence

London - updated on 15 December 2003
Beyond Images Ref: 73

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What is the background to Israel 's security fence?
  • Since 2000 Israel has experienced a wave of Palestinian terrorist atrocities committed against its citizens – 122 suicide bombs, 19,500 violent attacks, over 900 dead and thousands injured and traumatised (see Briefings 10, 12, 18 and 48). These attacks are initiated from Palestinian areas only a few kilometres from Israeli population centres.

  • Hundreds more attacks, including many so-called mega-terror attacks (see Briefing 3) have been foiled.

  • There is no natural or physical barrier to protect Israel civilian centres against such attacks, and the Palestinian Authority has refused to take practical action to stop the attacks. Indeed it stands accused in the eyes of Israelis and the Israeli government of condoning and indeed inciting attacks.

  • The Israeli Government has a duty to protect its own citizens. Every accountable government has such a duty, and would be considered unworthy of office if it did not seek to fulfil that duty.

  • The security fence being built by Israel is a defensive and last-resort measure which has been taken in response to the sustained terror.

  • The decision to build it was taken by the Israeli Government reluctantly in mid-2002, when the terrorism was intense and unceasing. The decision was the subject of intensive internal debate. If the terror against Israelis ceased, support for the fence in Israel would quickly fade.

  •   It was reported in the Jerusalem Post on December 12 2003 that Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei has told the US that he is not opposed to the security fence as such, “if Israel believes that it needs the fence”, as long as it is built on Israeli land and within the pre-1967 borders.
The Palestinians claim that the fence is a “land grab” – isn't this its underlying purpose?
  • Not at all. The fence has no ideological, territorial or political motive. Its purpose is to defend innocent men, women and children from being murdered. Mr Sharon has repeatedly stated he wants to withdraw from Palestinian territory, not annex it (see Briefing 32).

  • The legal status of the territory enclosed by the fence does not change. That status would be finally resolved in a negotiated peace agreement.

  • The current route of the fence does include parts of the West Bank where thousands of Israeli citizens live in settlements (notably the area towards Ariel in the centre of the West Bank area). The reason for this is that Palestinian terrorist groups treat these citizens as legitimate targets for attack. Israel 's duty to protect its citizens extends to them as well.
The Pope recently said that Israel should “build bridges, not fences”. Isn't the security fence counter-productive?
  • The perpetrators of the Palestinian violence are not interested in “building bridges” with Israel . Their goal is the elimination of the state (see Briefings 6 and 74). For as long as Palestinian society embraces terror (see Briefings 14 and 70), Israel is justified in pursuing a tangible response.

  • Since a security fence was created in 1994 around Gaza (with the agreement of the Palestinian Authority) not a single suicide attack against Israel has been “successfully” carried out from there.

  • The completed stretch of the current security fence near the Israeli town of Hadera has resulted in a reduction in attacks against Hadera (previously a frequent target).

  • Finally, there is an element of “double-standards” in the Pope's condemnation. The Pope is heavily protected against the risk of assassination or assault. Would the Pope remove all personal security so as to “build bridges” with potential assassins?
Doesn't the fence humiliate the Palestinians and breach their human rights?
  • 5% of the security fence is a concrete “wall”. And this is only because in these areas Arab snipers have frequently fired at Israelis.

  • The Palestinian population have recourse to the Israeli authorities to lodge objections to the route of the fence, and its implementation. Palestinian landowners have a right to compensation for the use of their land by Israel , and for reduction in crop yields.

  • Israel has replanted 68,000 Palestinian-owned fruit and olive trees which were uprooted to make way for the fence, in locations selected by the Palestinian owners. The contractors building the fence do not get paid by Israel 's Defence Ministry unless they carry out the replantings (see Briefing 76).

  • There are currently 41 gates in the fence to enable Palestinian farmers to reach their fields, and to enable Palestinian vehicles to cross.

  • The fence has been rerouted several times to reduce its impact on Palestinian daily life.

  • Of course the fence creates inconvenience and social disruption. But, as is the case with the Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks in the West Bank (see Briefing 5), the responsibility for the “inconvenience” lies with the terrorists (and their supporters) who have forced Israel into taking these measures.
Isn't the security fence a form of apartheid, separating Jews and Arabs?
  • This is pure propaganda, without any factual basis. The fence has nothing to do with either “apartheid” or discrimination.

  • Thousands of Jews will live beyond the protection of the fence, in settlements in the West Bank .

  • At the same time the security fence will protect Arab citizens of Israel , many of whom have been killed in suicide bombings (see Briefing 18).

  • The fence will also protect thousands of non-Israeli residents of the country, and Christian and other non-Jewish tourists.

  • Since the intifada began, Palestinian terrorists have killed citizens of China , Bulgaria , Russia , Ghana , Switzerland , Turkey , Rumania , the Philippines , the UK and the USA , in Israel (see Briefing 18). Measures by Israel to prevent further such crimes are not “apartheid” measures, but protection of the right to life, regardless of ethnic origin or nationality.
Doesn't the security fence make a two-state solution and peace impossible?
  • A two-state solution and peace will require negotiation, an end to violence, and compromise. In this context, the future of the security fence would also be subject of negotiation.

  • Israel dismantled expensive security structures in the past in the Sinai in the context of peace and diplomatic agreements with Egypt , and the same could happen again. The existence of the fence does not prejudge the outcome of future negotiations

  • For these reasons, the fence is not an obstacle to a two-state solution. The true obstacle to a two-state solution is outright Palestinian rejection of Israel (see Briefings 6 and 74), and the Palestinian demand for a ‘right of return' into Israel (see Briefing 34).

  • The Palestinian campaign against the fence is intended to divert attention from these roots of the conflict. The security fence is a symptom of the conflict, not its cause.


The fence is not the inevitable outcome of Israel policy, but the inevitable outcome of Palestinian policy. In the words of Dennis Ross and David Makovsky (Financial Times, 14 October 2003 ): “Hamas and Islamic Jihad are the builders of the fence….” . Even Palestinian Prime Minister Qurei has acknowledged that Israel has a case for building the security fence (see above). The focus of controversy therefore shifts to how the fence should be implemented, rather than whether it is in principle justifiable. Israel is seeking to implement the fence in a way that takes account of the requirements of the Palestinian population, and does not prejudge the outcome of final status peace negotiations.