Jerusalem’s New Old Security Model

The new checkpoints in Jerusalem screening those leaving Arab parts of the city have been criticized by the right and left.

Some decry a concession of territory rewarded to terrorists and to a two state concept they reject, others, the strain to Arab movement. These voices are familiar, and the counterclaims speak for themselves in a quiet all too loud.

Over and over, followers of the religion of greater Israel who protest any advancement of Palestinian independence claim their presence in Yehuda and Shomron protects those to the west.

Neither Beit El, nor Itamar prevented the second intifada, and no buffer of Jewish presence is there to block the people in Kalkilya from shooting at Kfar Saba. Yet they do not shoot, even despite being under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority.

Those going about their civilian lives, living, working, playing, and studying in Yehuda and Shomron are not the ones policing the territory or contributing to the security infrastructure. Rather, they are the ones who require soldiers, police, and hired guards, to protect them.

When civilians are used as buffers for military/security purposes they are called human shields. Such tactics are considered immoral, and are routinely cited to the discredit of Hamas and others who use them. The number of young children and senior citizens in Yehuda and Shomron makes the claim to be providing a security buffer either more absurd, more immoral, or both.

Security, rather, has come from barriers, checkpoints, a security infrastructure, and coordination between Israeli and Palestinian forces. The network of barriers, checkpoints, bases, and other infrastructure that actually protects Israelis from rockets as well as suicide and other attacks could remain, even if civilians were removed. So too the current division of Yehuda and Shomron into zones of Israeli, Palestinian, and joint control could be maintained without a civilian Israeli population there.

After all, though towns can be surrounded by fences and guarded by soldiers, the roads remain vulnerable and attacks against vehicles were common even before this wave of terror.

Those who protest the checkpoints because they make life for Arabs less comfortable are equally hypocritical. Checkpoints also make life for Jews less comfortable.  Many Jewish towns have checkpoints at their entrances, and many Jews also stop during their daily commutes. There are, though, many Jews that do not often go through checkpoints, just as there are many Arabs, such as those who live in Jaffa or along Israel’s Highway One, who also do not go through them regularly.

On the whole, the burden is felt more by Arabs than Jews, but nobody, not Netanyahu or Sharon, wanted the checkpoints. They have proven necessary, effective in preventing attacks that have no other remedy.

To support the paradigm of two states while decrying the natural implications of a division between the two peoples is a contradiction in terms. Instead of going through checkpoints to get to Jewish owned places of employment, two states suggests that Palestinians should work in their own territory. Those who blame Israel for impairing the Arab economy should know that until the current terror, Jerusalem did not have checkpoints, and a total division of the city would only leave East Jerusalem more economically isolated.

Israel does the best it can, imperfect as the effort may be, to make the flow of traffic through the checkpoints as smooth as is logistically possible without undermining their purpose. After all, long lines of angry people are uncomfortable for the soldiers, as well as those, both Jewish and Arab, who are waiting to get through.

The model that has proven itself since it ended the second intifada is simple. In part, security means that I am on one side, anyone who may want to stab me is on the other side, there is a barrier in between, and getting across requires being checked. Nobody needs to like it, unfortunately it is the world we live in.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry’s list of major terror attacks counts fifty-five in 2002. By 2004 the number was fourteen and it continued to drop steadily after that. What happened?

Operation Defensive Shield concluded on April 21, 2002, and construction of the security barrier took place mainly between 2002 and 2004. Instead of being able to freely walk from Palestinian controlled territory to Israeli population centers the barrier requires most of those crossing to be screened at a checkpoint. So too, placing checkpoints between parts of Jerusalem from which many recent terrorists have come, and areas where many recent attacks have taken place, has cleared Jerusalem of the current violence.

About the Author
Baruch Stein holds a BA in Political Science from Penn State University, with minors in Middle Eastern Studies and Jewish Studies. He has campaign experience in both Israel, and the United States, and has experience working for elected officials and for political advocacy organizations in the United States. Born and raised in Pennsylvania he has now been living in Jerusalem for more than six years.
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