Wednesday, January 09, 2008

9-Jan-08: Major media event cont.

And this afternoon (so far), five more Qassam strikes to add to this morning's nine.

One struck a private residence in the southern Israeli city of Sderot. Another landed right in the center of Sderot. YNet says four people were injured including a 17-year-old girl who suffered shrapnel wounds to her arm and a boy who was hurt while attempting to take cover. A 60-year-old man arrived at hospital after reporting chest pains in the wake of the attack.

Police are on every corner this afternoon and evening in the close-to-center parts of Jerusalem from where we write about This Ongoing War. The atmosphere, as a result, is somewhat tense here, compounded by the backed-up traffic, the off-limits streets, the cordoned sidewalks and footpaths (see picture) and disruptions of various other kinds to ordinary Jerusalemite lives.

The practical justification for this major anti-terrorism effort is self-evident, unfortunately. But some aspects are not, as our friend Marc Luria points out in his op-ed in yesterday's Jerusalem Post, "Tell Olmert and Barak to finish the fence..." Marc addresses George W. Bush in an open letter and makes some points we haven't seen anywhere else:

...Although it has been incredibly effective, [the security barrier erected by the government of Israel in the past several years] is only about 60 percent complete. The Defense Ministry stopped building it a few months ago because it had used up the 2007 fence budget, which had been cut in half; and the budget for 2008 is less than 2007. Optimistic reports put the finish date in 2010, but the finish date has been two years away for the last six years. I believe that unless you push Olmert to finish the fence earlier, your plans for a peace settlement in 2008 are unlikely to succeed. The lack of a fence will mean that additional Israeli withdrawals will result in more terror in Israel, which will derail the peace process. It happened over and over again in 2001 and 2002. The lack of a fence will make it more likely to happen in 2008 and 2009... We don't really need any help in building the fence. The government can allocate the money - probably less than another $600 million. The Defense Ministry has the know-how, and the route is basically planned... Fortunately, aside from one enclave, most of the remaining route is within a few meters of the Green Line, so the legal obstacles should be few. All I am asking of you is to tell Olmert and Barak to finish the damn fence already. There's no need to go public with this - just tell Olmert you want to go back to your ranch and you don't want to hear about suicide bombers in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Oh, and one more thing. Israel has sent over 7,000 policemen to Jerusalem to guard you during your visit. That's great, and I'm sure you will be safe. But at the same time, the government also announced that it would stop funding the guards on buses. After all, there haven't been any bus bombings in a couple years - perhaps because of these guards. Please tell Olmert you don't want to hear about bus bombings, either. At least until the fence is completed, he should keep the guards on the buses.

Marc's argument makes a lot of sense to us. The security barrier gets an enormous amount of negative media coverage, which perhaps is why so few column inches have been devoted to how astonishingly effective it has been. Not as a tool for creating better and warmer neighbourly relations - that's unfortunately going to have to wait until better times in the future. But effective as a preventive measure against terrorist intrusions into the lives of ordinary Israelis and into civil society in this country. The security barrier, plus Israel's military vigilance and the proactive stance of its security forces have led to a dramatic reduction in loss of Israeli lives.

This amounts to compelling logic. But only if saving innocent lives is a consideration that speaks to you.

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