The state of Israel has since 2002 embarked on a plan to build a barrier to protect its civilians from violent attacks from its volatile neighbors especially the Palestinians. This barrier is commonly referred to as The Israeli West Bank barrier. It is a separation barrier that upon completion will be approximately 760 kilometers and 8 meters high. The barrier is partly along the 1949 Armistice line and mainly in the West Bank. Palestinians refer to this barrier as the Racial Segregation Wall while Israelis refer to it as the Apartheid Wall. Israelis refer to this barrier as separation fence, security fence or the anti-terrorist fence. International media use the term barrier, West Bank barrier or separation barrier to avoid political connotations preferred by the Palestinians or Israeli government.
The Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin came up with the idea of creating a physical barrier to separate the Palestinian and Israeli population. This was after the murder in Jerusalem of an Israeli teenage girl in 1992. The main objective was to minimize friction between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Subsequent violent attacks on the Israelis prompted the prime minister to adopt separation as a philosophy hence the creation of a clear border. In 1995, Yitzhak Rabin established a commission to discuss the construction of a barrier separating Palestinians and the Israelis. In 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestine Prime Minister Yasser Arafat vowed to build a separation wall. This was necessitated by the need for independence and national identity for the Palestine nation. Israel began construction of the wall in 2002. The Israeli Supreme Court cited the history of violence against its citizens and the loss of life since the start of the Second Intifada as reasons that led to the construction of the wall.
Statistics obtained from Israel indicate that since the barrier was constructed, the number of suicide bombing, Palestinian infiltration and attacks on civilians in Israeli settlement and Israel has drastically reduced. Israeli officials anticipate that, with completion of the wall, terrorist activities will be halt as is the case where the fence has been constructed.
However, terrorists still cross into Israel through the checkpoints. Israeli officials have noted that the number of infiltrations where the barrier is complete has decreased drastically with previous target recording no attacks.
The barrier has made it hard for the Palestine militants to conduct attacks as most of the attackers are either intercepted or the suicide bombers panic and denoted prematurely. Israeli security has improved since the construction of the barrier. This is with regard to suicide bombing.
However, according to the Palestinian report, the decrease in attacks is as a result of increased intelligence and military operation by the Israeli army, Hama’s political activity and truce among the Palestinian militant groups in Palestinian territories and not because of the barrier. The barrier is no longer mentioned as a deterrent to attacks.
This barrier has also helped reduce gun attacks on Israeli motorists using the Trans-Israel Highway as the wall is high enough to prevent acquisition of target. The main reason of the Israelis to construct this wall was for security reasons-to protect its civilians from violent attacks- without regards to the social economic impact, the barrier will have for generations.
Israeli military incursions in Palestine towns and cities have reduced, and this has prompted a return to a semblance of normality with damaged streets and building being gradually rebuilt.
The barrier has had a negative impact on families as families living close to the Green line prior to the construction of the barrier have been divided by the physical barrier. The humanitarian impact of the physical barrier cannot be overstated as the barrier has blocked access to religious and cultural amenities, livelihoods and services to the communities and people inside the West Bank. Plan for the construction are not released in advance, and this escalates anxiety among the Palestinians about their future lives.
The barrier is built on a piece of land that was seized from Palestine, and it constitutes the most fertile land in the West Bank. In the process of its construction, the barrier is annexing more land to the Israeli side. The Palestinians are blocked access to their ancestral land for agricultural and commercial activities. During the construction, of the barrier, Israeli defence forces demolish Palestinian establishment that straddle the Green line. This led to a considerable loss of income in the village of Nazlat Issa. In the city of Qalqilyah, a third of the city’s water resources lie on the Israeli side of the barrier. As a result, residents of this city have limited access to water. This has affected close to 15 communities directly according to the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA).
According to Palestinian authorities, much of Palestinian farmland lies in the Israeli side of the barrier and Palestinian owners of this land require permits from Israeli authorities to access their land. Farming is the main economic activity of Palestine’s living along the barrier. In the city of Qalqilyah, three gates have been erected for the admitting farmers to their fields. These gates are controlled by the Israeli army and authorities. As a result, thousands of Palestinians cannot access their land in the West Bank. This harms farming which drastically affects the economy of the residents and most are driven into poverty.
Upon completion of construction, the barrier will block Palestinian children from immunization and pregnant women will be denied access to healthcare in Israel. Close to a third of West bank population will be denied access to healthcare. Many residents will lose emergency healthcare at night. The barrier has led to a total separation of hospitals from the civilians they are supposed to serve. The barrier has made it difficult for Palestinians to buy supplies, work or visit families. Employment and educational opportunities for Palestinians in Israel have been limited by the barrier.
The separation barrier has no doubt caused hardships for the Palestinians. On several occasions, the Israeli Supreme Court has instructed the Israeli government to alter the construction route to minimise the negative impact it has on the Palestinians.
The Palestinians are unanimous in opposing the separation barrier. Palestinian institutions to the East of Jerusalem are blocked from offering services to residents. Transport and accessibility have been hindered by the wall and the crowded military checkpoints. The hardships imposed will add to the security problems. It has been speculated that the real purpose of the barrier is to acquire territory and demarcation of the future State of Israel.
The United Nations has passed a few regulations, regarding the barrier, and the International Courts of Justice has issued advisory opinions on the same. Both institutions have been unanimously calling for the demolition of the barrier and compensation for the Arab residents for any damage caused. The International Courts of Justice found the wall and the associated regime to be illegal. The government of Israel has been illegally interfering with the Palestinian national right to self independence and self determinations. The Israeli government has continuously violated international laws and obligations through the creation of enclaves, demolition of houses, and land confiscation.
The establishment of Israeli settlement has led to the displacement of Palestinians in violation to international laws. The Israeli government should abide to its responsibilities and legal obligations and deal with its security concerns within the international law. The International Court of Justice that is based in The Hague ruled on Friday 24th February 2012 that the wall was a breach of international law. The court ordered the Israeli Government to destroy down the wall.
The court ruled that it is illegal for countries to offer assistance towards construction and maintenance of the barrier. The route of the fence was questioned as it encompassed 80% of West Bank settlers and cut off thousands of Palestinians from their surrounding areas.
In building the barrier, Israel has violated international laws and treaties it had signed. The wall infringes Palestinians’ freedom to seek health, education and employment and freedom of movement. However, part of the fence within the Green Line was not included in the court’s decision.
Terrorism worldwide is a crime against humanity. The state of Israel has a right to do anything under its power within the law to lessen the scope and impact of terrorism on its citizens. The security fence is one of the concepts to reduce any form of terrorist attack such as suicide bombing, explosive rigged vehicles or gun attacks against the Israeli population.