Despite demolitions outcry, Israel took appropriate action to protect its citizens

With such inflammatory and damaging rhetoric aimed at Israel, it’s vital to get the facts on the table.

A BUILDING IS blown up by Israeli forces in the village of Sur Bahir last week (photo credit: REUTERS/MUSSA QAWASMA)
A BUILDING IS blown up by Israeli forces in the village of Sur Bahir last week
Criticism continues to mount against Israel for taking appropriate action to protect its citizens. Just days ago, Israeli security forces, following proper procedure and protocol and with a court ruling in hand, proceeded to demolish 12 “West Bank” buildings that had been knowingly and illegally built near the security fence that protects Israeli civilians from potential terror attacks.
Of course, the Palestinian Authority seized on this opportunity to accuse Israel of “war crimes,” “crimes against humanity,” “ethnic cleansing” and, in the words of Mahmoud Abbas, “butchery.”
An attempt was even made at the United Nations to condemn Israel’s proper action with a draft statement warning that the demolition “undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospect for just and lasting peace.” Thankfully, the US stepped forward and blocked the move.
With such inflammatory and damaging rhetoric aimed at Israel, it’s vital to get the facts on the table.
A 2011 proclamation prohibits people from building in that zone. Israel informed the builders in 2012 that what they were doing was illegal; that they were to cease and desist their construction; and that if they did not do so, the buildings were subject to demolition. The builders decided to move forward anyway.
In June, after protracted legal proceedings, the Israeli Supreme Court, known for its readiness to rule against the Israeli government, firmly rejected the petitions opposing the demolition, ruling that the buildings represented a severe security threat and could provide cover to potential terrorists, and that the builders had been given plenty of notice not to build.
To be clear, the security fence was built for very good reason. From September 2000 until the building of the fence a few years later, 900 Israelis were murdered by terrorists, most of whom came into Israel from the Palestinian areas of the West Bank. Thousands more were injured or maimed, and the PA did little to stop the attacks.
Since the security fence was completed in June 2004, the number of deadly attacks directed at Israelis coming from PA-controlled areas has declined by more than 90%. In other words, the fence is clearly working. The buildings in question were within the designated military buffer zone (they stood 250 meters from the wall), and their removal was a military necessity.
Aside from potentially sheltering terrorists, or allowing weapons to be smuggled into Israel, the houses were so close that they would have also limited military operational freedom near the barrier.
Unfortunately, for the most part the mainstream media have once again unthinkingly parroted the Palestinian narrative and given a platform to their hyperbolic remonstrations.
Even worse, the PA is continuing their practice of habitually turning to the ICC and other international bodies demanding that they accept their lies and exaggerations.
In the past, these institutions have all too readily acquiesced, and the effect has been to cheapen and politicize one institution after the other. Now, however, with more and more countries finally recognizing the decades-long international bias against Israel, it is high time for a new approach.
One can be hopeful that the international community can take this opportunity to make it clear to the PA that security and anti-terrorism defenses will continue to be a major area of concern in any future peace plan, and for good demonstrable reason.
Maybe one day the security fence can be moved, but not until it is no longer necessary.
In the meantime, perhaps the world can politely explain that the inability to refrain from building in buffer zones, seven years after having been warned not to, does not reflect well on the Palestinians’ ability and maturity to engage in serious and believable talks, or that phrases like “ethnic cleansing” and “war crimes” lose their sacred meaning when you so quickly apply them to a legitimate administrative action.
Such accusations undercut legitimate conversations about balancing interests and make achieving lasting peace that much harder.
The writer is special counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice, and director of the Restoring Religious Freedom Project at Emory University.