Seventeen years ago I stood out on an unusually cold rainy
late March day in Jerusalem waiting for a bus that fortunately never came. I
had an appointment at Beit Agron in downtown Jerusalem where many international
news organizations have their offices. Eventually, a taxi came along, and for a
few extra shekels I made it to my meeting on time.
Had the bus come on time, I would have alighted on King George Street, one of the city’s main arteries, just about the time a terrorist detonated a suicide bomb, killing two people (one of whom was a woman pregnant with twins), and wounding 42 others, some of them seriously. Six days later, the most notorious suicide bombing of the Second Intifada killed 30 people and injured 140 attending a Passover seder at the Park Hotel in the coastal city of Netanya.
Those were two of 47 suicide bombings that took place in Israel that year. Numerous other fatalities resulted from terrorist gunmen who crossed the so-called Green Line. In total, Israel suffered 452 fatalities from suicide attacks in 2002.
Then Israel constructed a 440-mile security wall. People can argue about the placement of the wall, some of which stands on disputed territory. No one can argue with its effectiveness. By 2010, the number of terrorist incidents in Israel declined to just nine. Attacks have not been eradicated entirely, but rather than massively destructive bombs, the carnage now occurs on a smaller scale, often by lone attackers wielding knives.
Israel has a second, less publicized, security wall. This one spans the country’s 150-mile border with Egypt. The border wall with Egypt was less about preventing terrorist attacks (although ISIS, Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist groups are active in the Sinai Peninsula), but rather aimed at curbing illegal immigration.
The security wall along the Egyptian border was largely completed by 2013 and its effectiveness was immediately evident. During the first six months of 2012, some 9,500 illegal immigrants entered Israel illegally along the border with Sinai. During the first six months of 2013, the number of illegal entries dropped to about three dozen, and by 2017, the number was zero. Incidentally, the price tag for that border barrier was $242 million, or about $1.6 million per mile. At that price, President Trump’s requested $5.7 billion could cover every inch of our 2,000-mile southern border and then some.
While Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) cannot utter the noun “wall” without appending the adjective “immoral,” Israel’s border wall with Egypt has done more than prevent terrorists and illegal immigrants from entering. It has virtually ended the scourge of human trafficking that was flourishing alongside economic migration prior to the wall’s construction. Since construction of the Sinai border wall, human trafficking has declined by 99 percent.
Dramatically reducing the number of mass murder at the hands of terrorists, virtually ending human trafficking, and deterring economic migrants from putting their lives in jeopardy is the antithesis of immorality. Israel Defense Forces Colonel Danny Tirza, who spearheaded his country’s wall projects, stated flatly that the walls have “saved so many lives.” The structures are as much a psychological deterrent as they are physical ones. “People have to know where the line is and if they cross the line they are breaking the law. People need to understand it’s not open to everyone,” Tirza said.
Like many security experts in this country, including President Obama’s Border Patrol Chief Mark Morgan who is “begging [President Trump] to stay the course,” Tirza believes that border barriers are a basic prerogative of sovereignty. “The people of a country have the right to choose who is coming to your country and who is not,” he said.
The suddenly cost conscious Speaker Pelosi and her Senate counterpart, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), might want to look at how Israel got the job done at a fraction of the cost of what is being proposed along our southern border. Aside from the costs saved on providing services to people who enter illegally, the security brought about by the border walls have also been an economic windfall. Before the wall, “We had so many terror attacks before that nobody wanted to invest in Israel,” stated Tirza. Since the wall, Israel’s economy has boomed. GDP has grown by about 150 percent, from $121 billion to about $300 billion, meaning that the border walls have paid for themselves many times over.
Walls that protect people’s lives, deter human smuggling and trafficking, and produce economic growth are not immoral. Standing in the way of these benefits, while leaving hundreds of thousands of government workers and the people who depend on their services in limbo, is.