Don't panic 

What are the political and security ramifications of the wall that Israel is building between itself and the West Bank?

C'mon, man, forget the political and security concerns for a second. What about the graffiti? Israeli is building a 70-mile-long barrier between itself and the West Bank, much of which will be a concrete wall. If you're a Palestinian graffiti artist, you've got to be wetting your pants imagining how you're gonna be able to spray paint "Palestine Now," "Ariel Sharon is a girl's name" or "Hassan+Rania 4Ever" up and down the West Bank -- and the Israelis won't be able to bulldoze it.

Israel is building the wall to keep suicide bombers -- or, for that matter, any kind of bomber -- from the West Bank from getting into Israel. Although guarded, the current wall-free border provides plenty of places for would-be suicide bombers to simply walk into Israel. The 70-mile section currently under construction will separate the northern part of the West Bank from Israel. If the wall continues south along the whole border, it will be 215 miles long. Once completed, Israel will begin construction of an enormous roof and patio.

In that annoying way that makes you want to throttle him, Palestinian Authority authoritarian Yasser Arafat has, not surprisingly, denounced the wall. He says it's racist and sinful. Sinful? On the list of deadly sins, most sensible people would rank suicide bombings slightly higher than wall building. Was he expecting Israel to plant azaleas?

Arafat aside, Palestinians have a couple of quite reasonable objections to the wall that have nothing to do with race or sin. Palestinians fear that the wall is Israel's way of unilaterally deciding what the final border will be between Israel and a Palestinian state. Israel plans to include several West Bank Jewish settlements on its side of the wall, essentially annexing them to Israel. Also, the wall will go through densely populated areas and in some instances, cut towns and villages in half, potentially devastating small communities and their economies. Finally, Palestinians object because adding a new wall totally screws up their feng shui. Rearranging their furniture could take years.

Oh, and that reminds me of one more reason Israel wants the wall: It'll make it harder to hear Palestinians complaining about them all the time.

Palestinians have protested the wall with demonstrations, violent attacks, and by chanting the "We don't need no education" part from Pink Floyd's "Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2." During these demonstrations, Palestinians with keen vision might have noticed that, over on the Israeli side of the construction, there were protesters, too. Ironically enough, many of the Israelis protesting the wall do so because they feel that the West Bank is theirs because God says so. To them, building the wall is like saying, "OK, you Palestinians win. Whatever's on that side of it is yours. Just leave us alone."

In a way, the religious nut Israelis who hate the wall because they want to keep the West Bank are right. Not about God saying that the land is theirs, but about Palestinians winning. Because of suicide attacks, Israel is retreating behind a wall -- a wall that will hopefully keep suicide bombers out and will almost certainly keep Israeli settlers in. Diplomacy couldn't get Israel to stop expanding settlements on the West Bank, but terrorizing Israeli civilians apparently has. That's a horrible precedent to set.


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