Some see it as a representation and obvious physical evidence of oppression. Others see it as the solution to a seemingly never ending source of fear and terror. Your viewpoint might largely depend on whether you live somewhere like the West Bank city of Bethlehem or in the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Gilo or Har Homa. There are a myriad of considerations surrounding the security barricade. All things considered the barricade helps the drive towards peace in two fundamental ways; keeping Israelis safe and pushing the Palestinians towards peaceful methods of conciliation.
In September 2000, after months of negotiations between Palestinian Authority Leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak ended in failure, the Second or Al-Aqsa Intifada began. Originating at the Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount, a wave of Palestinian violence against Israeli forces led to the Israeli decision to implement “separation as a philosophy” and build the security fence that now surrounds all but 9.5% of the West Bank. The security fence has met with mixed reactions.
Time and again, Israel has said that in order for them to accept a final solution there must be insurances of stability. Israelis point to the significant decline each year since 2001 in successful attacks on its citizens as proof that the security fence is working and doing exactly what they hoped it would do. Evidence would seem at least to show a correlation between the introduction and expansion of the wall and the decline in successful attacks. In 2001 there were 7,634 terrorist attacks. In 2002, 5,176. 2003 and 2004 both saw around 4,000 attacks. 2005 and 2006 both hovered around 2,000. In terms of casualties caused by suicide bombers; there were 73 suicide bombings between 2000 and July 2003 with over 2100 injured or killed. But, between August 2003 and December 2006, those casualties were cut to just over 500. This is a significant step towards achieving a breakthrough in the peace process.
The Palestinians point to the fact that the majority of the barricade is on land in the current territory of the West Bank. This is seen as an encroachment on their territory and an attempt by the Israelis to preempt the territorial negotiations that are necessary to the peace process, creating a de facto annexation of lands the Israelis hope to gain in the negotiations (such settlements as Gush Etzion being included on the Israeli side of the barricade). A mere 20% of the barricade is on the Green Line (the negotiated line between Israel and the West Bank). The barricades placement in West Bank territories is seen as a violation of International Law, such as the 4th Geneva Convention agreements because it punitively restricts the movements of the Palestinian people. But my experience in visiting a border crossing gave me more insight into the nature of the crossings.
On my recent trip to Israel I was able to visit the checkpoint at Gilboa. There I learned a little more about the checkpoints at barricade crossings between the two sides. Gilboa is a recently upgraded crossing. In an effort to make the crossing more accessible the Israeli government converted the crossing from a pedestrian only crossing to a vehicular crossing. More than 600 cars a day pass through the crossing at Gilboa. Israel has actually eliminated altogether the checkpoint between Jerusalem and Jericho. Much is done to minimize the pain of crossing, especially in emergency situations. If a Palestinian needs transferred from a Palestinian medical facility to an Israeli medical facility, in order to receive the best of care that is only available in Israel, an ambulance will take a patient to the border crossing where it will meet another ambulance on the other side and the patient will then be transferred between them and rushed to the necessary facility. Is this something the Israelis should have to do? No. With the creation of the Palestinian state in the future, the Palestinians will assume the responsibility for the adequacies and inadequacies of their medical system. For now, the Israelis are willing to take them in to the much more modern, capable, and well-funded hospitals on their side as a demonstration of their desire for humane discourse and interaction with the Palestinians.
The longer Israel remains free from significant terrorist attacks, especially suicide bombers, the more comfortable the Israelis will feel with an ultimate peace process. The Palestinians also lose the ability to implement terror tactics as a means of forcing a final solution as a result of the increased Israeli security. This along with increased access to Israel and the current accompanying economic growth pushes the Palestinians away from violent methods and towards peaceful conciliation. The security barricade is the right thing for Israeli security and the right thing for Palestinian growth and aspirations toward statehood.