World News and Trends: Israel's security fence disturbs U.S. Mideast aspirations

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Israel's security fence disturbs U.S. Mideast aspirations

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Equipped with electronic sensors and surveillance cameras, the fence is flanked by coils of barbed wire and deep ditches on each side. At a few strategic points particularly vulnerable to attack, the fence becomes a concrete wall 20 feet high.

Eighty miles of this strategic fence are nearing completion, including a section around parts of Jerusalem. Proposed sections would surround the northern tip and parts of the southern sector of the West Bank.

The Palestinians claim that in reality the fence constitutes a land grab on the part of Israel because it doesn’t in all places strictly follow Israel’s borders from before the 1967 Six-Day War. Israel, having lost hundreds of its citizens to suicide bombers in recent years, argues that it desperately needs the fence to prevent further such attacks. A similar fence in the Gaza area has been successful in this regard.

Recently the United States has entered the picture by threatening to withhold millions of dollars in economic aid unless Israel reconsiders its present course. According to Roland Watson, reporting for The Times in Washington D.C., “President Bush has been persuaded that if left unchecked, construction of the 370-mile barrier was a threat to the Middle East peace process.” One proposal being considered is deducting dollar-for-dollar any funds Jerusalem uses to fund the security fence east of the 1967 boundaries between Israel and the West Bank.

President Bush’s father actually carried out a previous threat to withhold an American aid package in the billions when Yitzhak Shamir, the then-Israeli prime minister, refused to cease settlement activities in the West Bank. The U.S. Jewish vote reacted by defecting to the Democrats on a wholesale basis in 1992, partially contributing to the loss of the presidency to Bill Clinton.

In spite of its single superpower status, the United States still needs friends and allies among the nations of the world. And Israel, a tiny nation in a very dangerous neighborhood, relies on U.S. support. Both can ill afford these arguments with a longtime, trusted ally.

(Source: The Times [London].)

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