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Barbed-wire fence in Israel
5.31.02
Politics and Economy:
Transcript: Israel Separation Now?
More on This Story:
Hersh Goodman Transcript

NPR CORRESPONDENT DEBORAH AMOS: You can see it on the faces in Jaffa street, fear. A dozen suicide bombers hit this Jerusalem shopping center in the past year, killing Israeli civilians.

ARMY RESERVIST: When you get a suicide bombing every day, you just want, let's stop it. I don't know if its revenge, but you just want to live properly, you just want to stop it.

AMOS: There are security guards at every public door, including this pizza parlor where 16 died in a suicide bombing.

This wreath a reminder that 11 people died when a suicide bomber walked through a coffee shop door.

You don't have to be a soldier to feel the threat in this war. Ninety-two percent of Israelis believe they or someone in their family will be the victim of a terrorist attack.

TOM SEGEV, JOURNALIST AND HISTORIAN: Israelis are angry. Israelis are frightened. Israelis are frustrated, but more than anything else, Israelis are confused these days.

AMOS: Tom Segev, journalist and historian, has written five books about the 100 year conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

SEGEV: Everybody knows that terrorism doesn't destroy the state of Israel, but it may destroy me. So it's a very personal relationship to the big conflict. Terrorism brings out the worst in us. If you want...it brings out fear, it brings out hatred, it brings out racism.

AMOS: A huge majority of Israelis backed the recent incursions into the West Bank. But as the tanks pulled out, and attacks resumed. Israelis are asking: what now?

Hersh Goodman fought in three Israeli wars, and covered one as a journalist. He says violence and fear are making Israelis consider desperate solutions.

HERSH GOODMAN: What's happened in Israel is a very sharp shift to the right wing, they are saying I can't see us living together with the Palestinians, they can't see a peace treaty between us. So let them live there and us here.

AMOS: In Tel Aviv, Israelis sign on to a new and popular movement called unilateral separation.

It is a powerfully simple idea - build a big fence — Israelis on one side. Palestinians on the other.

But to understand unilateral separation you need to see a map.

In 1967, this territory was captured by Israel in the Six Day War. There are no physical borders.

It is now a patchwork of areas, some controlled by the Palestinians and some controlled by the Israeli Army.

More than a million Palestinians live in the West Bank — so do more than a quarter million Israeli settlers.

The separation movement wants to put a fence along the 1967 border.

Israelis agree the fence is about one thing — security — but there are differences over more controversial parts of separating.

For these activists separation means withdrawing the army from Palestinian areas. Others here want Israeli settlements in the West Bank disbanded.

When prominent Israeli politicians add their names, it is big news in Israel.

DANNY ATTAR: If this fence was built two years ago, it would have prevented 98% of the attacks.

AMOS: Danny Attar and Eid Salem are elected representatives from Israeli towns closest to the Palestinians.

I went to see Danny Attar in his northern Israeli office to see why he signed up.

ATTAR: We worked very hard to build a relationship of trust between us and the Palestinians of Jenin. Then came these suicide attackers and most of them came from Jenin.

AMOS: Attar lives in the Israeli town of Maquebila — the sign says Jenin is six miles away. From here, it looks much closer.

AMOS (ADDRESSING ATTAR): Where is Jenin?

ATTAR: There's Jenin.

AMOS: It is an open field that has been used by suicide bombers. Even on this day no one stops these Palestinians from crossing.

People can come in and come out now?

ATTAR: Yes, very easy.

AMOS: There are no check points — no army.

For Attar, separation means security. He wants an electrified fence across these fields.

And there are more "separation" supporters in the nearby Israeli city of Haifa. A place that seemed immune from the war, until the suicide bomber hit this popular local restaurant last March. Twenty-three people died, including the bomber who came from Jenin.

The mayor of Haifa, Amram Mitzna, is one of the founding member of the separation movement.

AMRAM MITZNA, MAYOR OF HAIFA: The level of hatred and anger between the two sides, the Israelis and the Palestinians is in such a level in the last few months that nothing will help but to separate ourselves from each other. It needs a fence to be good neighbors.

AMOS: Mitzna, a former military commander who fought against the Palestinians knows there is no military solution only a political one.

MITZNA: We will have to force them to build a state, a Palestinian state, and then start to be responsible for yourself.

AMOS: The violence will stop when Palestinians have something to lose other than their lives — a nation — a state next to Israel.

MITZNA: They blame Israel about everything..we don't have medical services, that is Israel, we don't have food, it is Israel, we don't have infrastructure, we don't have schools, take your own state and do something for your own.

AMOS: Mitzna wants many Israeli West Bank Settlements disbanded, an end to the army's occupation — but first, a fence.

Mitzna did not always believe in a closed border. He once had open cooperation with the Palestinian Governor of the Jenin Province, Zuhair al Manashreh.

But that cooperation is now on hold. Jenin was the scene of some of the worst fighting in the recent war.

So what does Mitzna's old partner think now? Like most Palestinians, he rejects separation because Israel is imposing a solution.

ZUHAIR AL MANASHREH, PALESTINIAN GOVERNOR OF THE JENIN PROVINCE: Logically, we can't have a fence without agreement. It is wrong. It cannot be. But the Israelis with force can do everything they want.

AMOS: But Manashreh acknowledges a fence on the '67 border would help define a Palestinian state.

For this reason, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has opposed unilateral separation. Now he embraces it — with his own definition. The army in buffer zones surrounding the Palestinians, with all the settlements in place. He even wants the U.S. to foot the bill.

HERSH GOODMAN: It's a simplistic, populist concoction that is there to fill the void of any real thinking of how to solve this problem, really. What is required in this country is leadership.

Running away in unilateral separation or kicking the Arabs out is not a negotiated settlement. And any settlement that's not negotiated will not last.

AMOS: Jenin's governor agrees. A message this Palestinian wants to send to his Jewish neighbor Danny Attar.

AMOS (ADDRESSING ZUHAIR AL MANASHREH): If you could talk to him, what would you say about the fence?

ZUHAIR AL MANASHREH: I would say to him, the best fence against violence is to grow a partnership.

AMOS: But Danny Attar is not looking for a partner. He wants security.

With just a few steps we cross from Israel into Palestinian Jenin. Attar wants to be sure suicide bombers won't cross these fields. With an end to fear, there can be a different future.

ATTAR: On one side of the border, there's going to be a Palestinian state. On the other side of the border, there's gonna be the state of Israel. And only then will we be able to build a normal life.

AMOS: In the meantime, he's raising money from Jewish communities in the United States to build a fence as fast as he can.


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