It was hardly surprising that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s announcement, made on Sunday, that Israel will build a fortified fence along its frontier with Syria was characterized by many of the usual suspects as yet another example of Israeli apartheid policies.
Largely ignored were Mr. Netanyahu’s reasons for building the wall. He told his Cabinet that there was great concern with increasing infiltration into Israel in the wake of the deterioration of the Syrian central government and its army.
“We know that on the other side of our border with Syria today,” the prime minister said, “the Syrian army has moved away, and in its place, global jihad forces have moved in.”
Israel has been jittery ever since pro-Palestinian activists rushed the border during two demonstrations in 2011 and entered Israeli-controlled space. Israel has already begun laying mines along the frontier and reinforcing several small fences that were built following the incidents. According to defense officials, Israel plans to add to the current six miles of fortifications as part of an overall plan for a 45-mile route.
The need for the new fence is clear. Israel has almost completed a 125-mile defensive wall on its border with Egypt to block terrorists from entering Israel and also one separating Jewish and Arab areas near the Green Line. Both have been successful in limiting terrorist infiltration and attacks.
Left unsaid in all of this is Israel’s strategic need to maintain control over the Golan Heights, which overlook Israel from Syria. While under Syrian control, the Heights gave Syria considerable strategic advantage and was the scene of particularly fierce battles resulting in large numbers of Israeli dead and wounded.
When Israel captured the Heights in the 1967 Six-Day War at considerable cost, it subsequently annexed it, though most nations have not recognized the move. Nevertheless, Israel’s strategic precautions regarding the Golan are no different from any that would be taken by military planners in other countries were they faced with the same threats.