Israel has temporarily dodged another bullet -- this one from its closest ally. Angered that Israel won't abandon plans to build a 360-mile security fence to keep out Palestinian terrorists, the United States has threatened to withhold partial payment on loan guarantees Israel needs to boost its terrorist-ravaged economy. For the time being, the Bush administration says it won't deduct the money from the initial payment of $1.6 billion but may do so against future payments of the $9 billion in U.S. loan guarantees. This pressure comes perilously close to blackmail.
Israel should not give up its plans to build a secure barrier between itself and those who want to destroy the tiny nation. In the last three years, some 900 Israelis have been murdered by Palestinian terrorists. To understand what these numbers mean, imagine that the United States had experienced not one attack on September 11, but 14 such attacks, resulting in the loss of some 42,000 Americans. Given the scale of the carnage Israel has suffered, what right have we to tell the Israelis they can't build a fence?
Short of all-out war on the Palestinians, a security barrier between Israel and the Palestinian territories may be the only way to prevent future attacks. A similar wall separating Gaza has prevented any terrorists from launching attacks on Israel from there.
So far, Israel has built about 90 miles of the so-called fence, which is really a 25-foot high concrete barricade along many stretches and a razor-wire barrier, equipped with electric sensors and cameras at other points.
Make no mistake, the issue in the Middle East is not whether Palestinians deserve their own state, or under what conditions and within what boundaries. The issue is whether Israel has a right to exist, and whether Israelis have the right to live free from the murderous attacks of their neighbors.
Nothing that has happened in the last 56 years suggests that the Palestinians' real aim is simply political autonomy in a state of their own. Every time they have been offered a state, they have rejected the terms, from 1948 to the present "Road Map." The Palestinians want a nation, all right. It's called Israel. To believe otherwise is to ignore history.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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