Tell Olmert and Barak to finish the fence...

...and keep the guards on the buses until they do.

security fence 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
security fence 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Dear President Bush, First of all, I'd like to welcome you to Jerusalem. You are a true friend of Israel, and I'm happy that you are here. Most Israelis would love to see peace sometime soon, but are fairly pessimistic about anything really changing. We wish you luck, and appreciate your coming here to give talks for a peace deal an extra push. There is, however, something else you should tell Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak (truthfully, like most Israelis I don't think it really matters what you tell Mahmoud Abbas). But, first, I wanted to fill you in on some news that you may have missed in your daily briefing. The General Security Service (Shin Bet) announced this week that Israeli deaths due to terror are way down in 2007. They attribute this to: 1. the security fence; 2. superior intelligence; and 3. IDF activities in the West Bank. Though the problem of Kassam rocket attacks remains a serious one, there are still almost no deaths stemming from Gaza since a fence completely surrounds that area. Unfortunately, this situation might change. The media reports that you and Secretary Rice are going to push Olmert to leave more of the West Bank. Some here support that, others do not; however, all agree that if we do leave much of the West Bank, we will have significantly poorer intelligence there and the IDF will not be active in those areas. THIS LEAVES the security fence. Unfortunately, although it has been incredibly effective, it is only about 60 percent complete. The Defense Ministry stopped building it a few months ago because it had used up the 2007 fence budget, which had been cut in half; and the budget for 2008 is less than 2007. Optimistic reports put the finish date in 2010, but the finish date has been two years away for the last six years. I believe that unless you push Olmert to finish the fence earlier, your plans for a peace settlement in 2008 are unlikely to succeed. The lack of a fence will mean that additional Israeli withdrawals will result in more terror in Israel, which will derail the peace process. It happened over and over again in 2001 and 2002. The lack of a fence will make it more likely to happen in 2008 and 2009. I don't really know why they are not finishing the fence. Olmert and Barak both realize its importance, and both are intelligent men. But they seem to be missing something fundamental. Withdrawing from the West Bank without finishing the fence is viewed by most Israelis as an "Israbluff." This combination of "Israel" and "bluff" is Israeli slang for the tendency to improvise and work out the details later. Unfortunately, building a fence takes time. If suicide attacks begin to ramp up again, it will take at least a year to finish the fence, which is why we need to be completing it now. WE DON'T really need any help in building the fence. The government can allocate the money - probably less than another $600 million. The Defense Ministry has the know-how, and the route is basically planned. (The US Army Corps of Engineers is busy building your own fence between the US and Mexico.) Fortunately, aside from one enclave, most of the remaining route is within a few meters of the Green Line, so the legal obstacles should be few. All I am asking of you is to tell Olmert and Barak to finish the damn fence already. There's no need to go public with this - just tell Olmert you want to go back to your ranch and you don't want to hear about suicide bombers in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Oh, and one more thing. Israel has sent over 7,000 policemen to Jerusalem to guard you during your visit. That's great, and I'm sure you will be safe. But at the same time, the government also announced that it would stop funding the guards on buses. After all, there haven't been any bus bombings in a couple years - perhaps because of these guards. Please tell Olmert you don't want to hear about bus bombings, either. At least until the fence is completed, he should keep the guards on the buses. The writer is a founder of Security Fence for Israel, a pro-fence group started in 2001 and chaired by former National Security Adviser Uzi Dayan.