A fence, not a wall

During his stay in Israel, German Interior Minister Otto Schily defended the Israeli security fence against criticism:

“Those who draw comparisons with the Berlin Wall are wrong, because it does not shut people in and deprive them of their freedom,” Schily told Deutschlandfunk radio on Monday. “Its purpose is to protect Israel from terrorists.”

Schily, who is currently in Israel for an international conference on terrorism, said the security barrier was the result of decades of failed efforts to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from crossing the border and attacking Israel.

“All the efforts undertaken over many years, even decades, have unfortunately failed to bear fruit,” he said. “So it is understandable that Israel should try to erect a protective barrier, which furthermore has shown it works, and I think that the criticism is far from the reality.”

In the radio interview, Schily also insisted the security barrier should be referred to as a “fence” and not a “wall,” as it is often called in Germany.

The Palestinians aren’t too happy about Schily’s statements, of course:

On Tuesday, Palestinian authorities demanded a thorough explanation for Schily’s statements. Cabinet Minister Sajeb Erekat said the German minister’s statements were “very strange and unusual,” and not in keeping with the official German position on the barrier.

The German government insits that there is no contradiction, though:

Only recently German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer had criticized the barrier as “barely understandable” from a security point of view. But a spokesman for the German foreign ministry on Tuesday insisted there was no contradiction between the two ministers’ remarks. He said that while the German government recognizes that every state has the right to defend its borders, it is still concerned over the route of the barrier, which at times cuts deep into Palestinian territory.

This is a quite reasonable stance. You can be for the fence without being too happy about its exact location.

These points are also important:

At a four-day anti-terror conference held to commemorate the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, the German interior minister said Germany had a special commitment to ensuring Israel’s security because of the Holocaust.

“This responsibility to Israel includes the obligation to support Israel in its fight against terror, and in this context we must be aware that no nation suffered under the scourge of terrorism like Israel,” he said on Saturday.

I have very little use for Schröder, but even so this remains the fundamental basis of the German Middle-East policy, all disagreements with Israel over details aside.

4 thoughts on “A fence, not a wall”

  1. If it is “barely understandable” to Fisher, he’s even more of a moron than I thought.

    Let’s see. Gaza has been fenced since 1994. No suicide bomber attacks from Gaza.

    Any questions ?

  2. The German govt’s position is better than that of France, and on this issue is not worse than that of our close ally the UK. Perhaps the situation would be different if Schroder’s anti-US political gambit had succeeded. At the least it appears that Bush’s firmness toward France and Germany hasn’t cost us or our ally Israel much if anything.

  3. Jonathan, from his point of view it *did* succeed. It mobilized his formerly disaffected left-wing base and got him (just barely) reelected. Once it had served this purpose he didn’t seem to care either way.

    Of course, it was somewhat uncomfortable for him even so. He is psychologically unable to take something back once he has said it, even if it is just a slip of the tongue. As a consequence he had to tip-toe around a lot of issues ever since, for he doesn’t want to give any more offense than he has to, either.

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