Charles Krauthammer
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WASHINGTON -- The State Department is proposing that the United States play hardball with Israel -- reducing badly needed loan guarantees -- if it proceeds with the barrier it is erecting between Israeli and Palestinian populations. With this, the State Department joins the latest Palestinian propaganda ploy -- inverting cause and effect, and making the fence the issue, rather than the terrorism that made the fence necessary.

The Israelis are not happy with the fence. They love the land as much as the Palestinians, and scarring it with any barrier is so painful to Israelis that for years they resisted the idea. The reason they finally decided to build it is that they could no longer in good conscience refrain from taking the one step that could prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from sneaking into Israel to blow up innocents.

This is not speculation. There have been nearly 100 Palestinian suicide bombings. All the terrorists came from the West Bank, where the barrier is being built. Not a single one has come from Gaza. Why? Because there already is a fence separating Gaza from Israel.

``The fence would not even be a factor if it were not for the violence in the last few years,'' writes former chief U.S. Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross. ``Truth be told, those responsible for the fence are Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.''

In America, we build stretches of fence along the Mexican border to prevent foreigners from coming in to take jobs. It takes a lot of audacity to demand that Israel stop building a fence whose purpose is to prevent foreigners from coming in to commit mass murder.

As part of the propaganda campaign against the barrier, it has been called a wall. In fact, it is a fence, with electronics on either side to prevent infiltrators. It is wall-like for only about a tenth of its length -- in just two places, both along the Trans-Israel Highway. Why? Because Palestinian gunmen had been shooting from Palestinian territory onto the highway and killing innocent Israelis.

In America, barrier walls are built along highways to keep neighbors from being inconvenienced by the noise. In Israel, barrier walls are built along highways to prevent passengers from being killed by bullets. Yet the State Department wants to sanction Israel for building a defensive barrier designed to prevent motorists from being shot while transiting inside Israel itself.

What is scandalous about the State Department joining this Palestinian propaganda campaign is that State has for months been campaigning to implement its ``road map'' for peace, published on April 30. It has three phases. We are now in Phase I.

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Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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