TCS Daily

Wall of Truth

By Joshua Livestro - March 1, 2004 12:00 AM

The scenes at the International Court of Justice during the last few days have something of the bizarre about them. A court that is universally acknowledged to have no jurisdiction in the matter under discussion is asked to pronounce a non-binding judgment on the wrong question. The question, after all, is not whether Israel has the right to build a wall to protect itself against terrorist attacks. Of course it does. Provided they are built on Israeli soil, it can build as many walls as it likes. The debate about its location may be a matter for international discussion, but the debate about the existence the wall is strictly an internal Israeli matter.

The real question is what impact the wall will have on the future of the fight against terrorism in this part of the world. The obvious purpose of the wall is to protect Israeli citizens against further Palestinian suicide attacks. The Israeli Foreign Office website contains a link to a video showing the horrific results of one such terrorist attack. Anyone who has seen the shocking images of disfigured and dismembered bodies will acknowledge Israel's right to defend itself against such attacks. And a non-violent measure like a security wall seems a much better option than the continuation of the endless cycle of violent countermeasures and retaliations of recent years. Surely no one could object to such a peaceful solution?

It makes the Palestinian case all the more difficult to understand. The claim by Nasser al-Kidwa, the Palestinian Authority's spokesman at the hearing, that the wall will make a two-state solution impossible seems a complete non-starter. Provided the wall doesn't encroach upon the makeshift 1967 borders, Palestinians have nothing to complain about. If anything, it would help to affirm their claim to statehood. The wall would be a visible sign of the partition of the Holy Land into two states living side by side -- unhappily perhaps, unwillingly certainly, but still. If anything, the wall makes a two-state outcome inevitable.

Perhaps that is the real problem for Palestinian hardliners. In spite of all the sweet-talking to the international media, their message to a domestic audience has always remained one of uncompromising commitment to a one-state solution. A Palestinian state, that is. On the international stage, Arafat likes to hold forth about the need for a "comprehensive, just and lasting peace" -- maybe something like the peace that Israel has made with its neighbours Egypt and Jordan, who knows.

To an Arab audience, however, the talk is not of peace or justice, but of bloodshed and victory. A recent memorandum by the Palestinian Authority's head office -- for Palestinian eyes only, of course -- used the usual florid Arab language: "Yes, we will still write in blood the map of the one homeland and one nation... We look and follow with nationalistic eyes, dreaming about our families and great nation in villages and cities that stand strong since the year 1948. For they are partners of the goal and the fate, partners of the one national dream." In 1996, Arafat was a lot more prosaic. In a meeting with Arab businessmen in Stockholm -- where he had just accepted a peace prize from the Israeli pacifist movement Peace Now! -- he reaffirmed his commitment to a strategy of terror: "We plan to eliminate the State of Israel and establish a purely Palestinian state. We will make life unbearable for Jews by psychological warfare and population explosion...We Palestinians will take over everything, including all of Jerusalem." Charming, no?

The truth about the wall is that to the Palestinian warlords, it spells disaster. They know the wall will put them out of business by making it impossible to execute further suicide attacks. The existing wall between Israel and Gaza shows that the new one will do just that: since its completion, not a single suicide attack has been organised from Gaza. What's more, the wall will make a two-state solution all but inevitable, thereby ending the terrorists' dream of the complete destruction of Israel. The warlords will use any means at their disposal to stop the wall from becoming a political reality. That is why they are bringing this farcical court case. Let's hope the judges will not disgrace themselves. If they have any sense, they will throw it out quickly. The wall, after all, might be the last, best hope for peace in that troubled part of the world.


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