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Inside Story
Israel and the walls that surround it
Does the new border wall with Lebanon highlight Israel's precarious relationship with its neighbours?
Last Modified: 02 May 2012 10:38

A wall is sometimes built to protect, sometimes to separate and occasionally to do both - but will Israel's latest project protect it or further seal the country's isolation in the region?

"Israeli isolation with its Arab neighbours started in 1967 in Khartoum with the three no's: No negotiations, no recognition and no talking to the Jewish state. But there is a saying that goes 'Good fences make good neighbours'."

- Gregg Roman, the deputy director of the Gloria Centre

A new 'border wall' is going up in Israel, but this time it is in the north of the country, on the border with Lebanon. The six-metre high slabs of concrete and barbed wire are meant to avoid friction and protect from incoming fire.

Israel already has a security wall running along the border with Lebanon. But this one will only be one kilometre long, stretched between Metulla and the Lebanese village of Kfar Kila, and is actually very small in the context of the whole border. 

Metulla is Israel's northern-most outpost and it is surrounded by Lebanon on three sides, which explains why Israel feels it needs extra protection there.

The country's newest frontier wall follows the construction or planned-construction of four others. These could eventually see Israel completely enclosed by steel, concrete and barbed wire.

The most famous and controversial of these is the 748km 'separation wall' encircling the West Bank. Israel says it is a necessary security measure that has deterred attacks from the Palestinian territories. But given that it runs inside the Green Line, which marks out Israeli and Palestinian territory, many see it simply as annexation of Palestinian land.

"The problem is not the wall itself; the problem is the placement .... Israel, from a military point of view, does not need this wall at all. It is not necessary ... because the city of Kfar Kila and the other high places of Lebanon dominate the plain of Al Hula."

- Hisham Jaber, a Lebanese defence analyst

Adjoining that will be another new wall Israel is building along its 241km western border with Egypt. This is due for completion at the end of the year and Israel says it is a necessary deterrent against terrorism and illegal infiltration.

Then there is the 51km wall around the Gaza Strip that has succeeded in keeping Palestinians under siege, but has not stopped rockets being fired into Israel.

And then there is one more: announced by Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, in January that will be constructed along the border with Jordan. That wall is intended to curb migrant workers from entering Israel.

But when all these walls are completed, will they actually serve to separate Israel from its neighbours and even stoke tensions further?

Inside Story, with presenter Kamahl Santamaria, discusses with guests: Hisham Jaber, a former Lebanese military general, defence analyst and head of the Middle East Centre for Studies and Research, a think tank in Beirut; Gideon Levy, a columnist for Haaretz newspaper, a member of its editorial board and the author of The Punishment of Gaza; and Gregg Roman, the deputy director of the Gloria Centre, a former political adviser in the Knesset, and an official at the Israeli ministry of defence.

"In a very, very irrational way, Israel is doing anything possible in the last decade not be accepted in the Middle East and then to complain about all the dangers and all the risks and then to cover itself and surround itself with walls. I have nothing against walls but Israel should open up to the Middle East. In the first steps we should have a long time ago put an end to the occupation. But the occupation is not mentioned here as if it is a false major and everyone accepts it and now let's face the dangers which have a lot to do with the occupation. I don't say the occupation is the only reason why Israel is threatened but it is the main one."

Gideon Levy, the author of The Punishment of Gaza and a columnist for Haaretz

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FACTS: ISRAEL'S BORDERS

  • Israel has begun building a wall along its northern border
  • That wall will be one kilometre long and around seven metres high
  • It separates Israel's Metulla and Lebanon's Kfar Kila 
  • The wall replaces a wire fence that currently runs along the border
  • Israel says the wall will protect Metulla from Lebanese attacks
  • Israeli forces pulled out of Lebanon in May 2000
  • The 'blue line' is the de facto border between Israel and Lebanon
  • The ceasefire has largely been upheld along the border since the 2006 war
  • Israel is also building a wall along its border with Egypt
  • Israel says the new border wall with Egypt will be ready by the end of 2012
  • Israel says fences deter terrorism and illegal infiltration into Israel
Source:
Al Jazeera
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