Iron Wall or Maginot Line? 

June 7, 2001

Comment: #412

Discussion Thread - Comment #s - 411, 410, 408, 398, 392


[1] "Army submits plan for security zone between Israel and West Bank: paper, "Agence France-Presse, June 7 (AFP) Excerpt attached.

Reference 1 below is a report of an Israeli plan to build a high-tech barrier for $250 million along its 1967 border. The aim is to protect Israelis from the infiltration of suicide bombers from the occupied territories into Israel proper.

As Avi Shlaim (an Iraqi born Israeli, now a professor at Oxford) explains in his important book, The Iron Wall, [reviewed in Comment #408] the idea of an impenetrable barrier separating Israelis and Arabs is a very old one reaching back to two important essays written by Ze'ev Jabotinski in 1923. [pp. 11-16]

According to Shlaim, these essays became the bible of Revisionist Zionism, which advocated the maximalist solution of "Eretz Israel," which would include Israeli sovereignty over the entire West Bank. Those ideas are not dead, although the wall described in Reference 1 might suggest they are, at first glance.

Not discussed in Reference 1, however, are the relationships of the West Bank settlements or the crucial water supplies in the Mountain Aquifer to the proposed security zone. The settlements and aquifer would be on the wrong side of the barrier, if the Electronic Wall was to be built along the Green Line, as indicated below. (See settlement map  and map of Mountain Aquifer).

The idea of a barrier strategy also harkens back to Jabotinski's assumption that the Palestinians will acquiesce to the division once they realize the alternative is hopeless. But some observers believe it is the very sense of hopelessness in an occupied people that is shaping the evolving network of relations fueling the Al Aqsa Intifada [see Harold Gould, Comment #392, for example].

Significantly, the report notes that Sharon has opposed implementing this type of solution before a final settlement on the question of "who occupies what?" in the occupied territories. This consideration raises the possibility of a more complex Iron Wall Strategy, including, perhaps, a Green Line Wall coupled to a constellation of outlying electronic fortresses linked via fortified roads.

No doubt, American contractors will be licking their chops at this kind of possibility, since any solution of this type would probably be financed with American aid that could easily be escalated to billions of dollars, once the apostles of the RMA gain a toehold into the program.

But will a high-tech barrier wall off the problem - particularly if the political questions of settlements and water are not addressed in a way that equitably recognizes the legitimate needs of all humanity, including the Palestinian people living on the West Bank?

Finally, this application of new technology (i.e., electronic fences) to reinforce old ideas seems a little like the strategy used by the French when they built the Maginot Line in the 1930s. Only this time the mismatch is between linear thinking of 2nd Generation Warfare (2GW) and the networking character of 4th Generation Warfare (4GW) rather than between linear thinking of trench warfare and non-linear thinking behind the blitzkrieg (3GW).

A compendium of articles describing the evolving nature of 4th Generation Warfare and the roots of terrorism can be found on the DNI 4GW page.

Chuck Spinney

[Disclaimer: In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.]

Reference #1

Thursday, June 7
8:14 PM SGT

Army submits plan for security zone between Israel and West Bank: paper




Herewith the main points of the plan as published by the Yediot Aharonot:

  • A dividing strip, apparently a few hundred meters (yards) wide, on the eastern side of the green line. The strip would be declared a closed military zone, off-limits to vehicles and pedestrians. Anyone going into it in daylight would be arrested, and shot at night.

  • Foot patrols by army forces and guard dogs along the dividing strip.

  • Video cameras and radar would monitor movement in the strip.

  • An electronic fence in "sensitive" areas of the strip near Israeli communities.