Today’s New York Times ran an article declaring that the Bush Administration might reduce U.S. aid to Israel in proportion to the amount that Israel might use to build its controversial “security fence,” which is designed to prevent Palestinian suicide attacks against Israelis. The fence is hated by Palestinians because it does not follow the traditional Green Line international border, but rather twists its way through the West Bank incorporating Israeli settlements in its scope and surrounding some Palestinian communities like Qalqilya on all four sides. The U.S. side worries that the fence may establish a de facto international border and in effect become an Israeli land grab of Palestinian territory it does not already control.
In Israel’s defense, most reasonable people will understand its motivation in constructing this fence. The suicide bombers who have attacked Israeli civilians within the Green Line have claimed a horrible toll of death and devestation. No one can fault Israel for trying to thwart the Islamic militants. A fence that followed the internationally recognized border (the Green Line) would be a project to which the Palestinians could not reasonably object. But the fence currently under construction not only protects Israelis within the Green Line, it protects Israeli settlers and their population centers. As such, the fence is no longer a defensive protection, but rather a means of protecting Israel’s illegal conquest of Palestinian lands. In other words, it is a means for Israel to maintain the status quo.
History is littered with the corpses of fences erected by various invaders and conquerors to keep out undesirable alien maurauders: Hadrian’s Wall, China’s Great Wall, the Berlin Wall, Belfast’s Catholic-Protestant divide. Fences do not work. They attempt to maintain an artificial divide between peoples, when the natural state of humanity is to mix, interrelate and engage is social intercourse. The Israeli fence will fare as poorly as the ones that came before it. Israel must make peace with the Palestinians to ensure real, true security. No fence can perform such a miracle. Only people can.
Returning to the issue of U.S. aid…this takes us into complicated financial waters. But it is important for Americans to understand how their tax dollars can enable Israel to accomplish tasks of which we might disapprove.
When the U.S. gives foreign or military aid to Israel, that country might not spend this money directly on projects such as the security fence. But U.S. aid may allow Israel to fund certain projects which it was intending to fund out of its own pockets. Having these funds freed up would then allow Israel to move the money over to pay for building the fence. In foreign aid terms, we say that such U.S. funds are “fungible.” That is, they may be used indirectly to accomplish purposes of which we Americans disapprove politically.
The Bush Administration is considering reducing Israeli aid by the amount that is indirectly supporting the security fence. I heartily support this proposal. The problem with U.S.-Israeli relations is that we support Israeli positions wholeheartedly. We almost never oppose Israeli policy. Israel, even when it does things of which the U.S. disapproves, never hears our disapprobation. Israel never faces any consequences for its odious behavior or policies (like building this reprehensible fence). I say that Israel must face consequences in order for any pressure to be exerted upon it to change its ways. No pressure, no change. It’s a simple as that.