As the debate over whether to build a wall along the Mexican-American border continues, so too does the government shutdown, and neither side shows, as of this writing, any sign of backing down on the issue. Is there any way out? A fascinating article in the New York Times, brought to my attention by a colleague, offers a tantalizing solution to our current stalemate. Its author, New York Times columnist Bret L. Stephens, advocates that the Israeli system for maintaining border security be our model. Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/10/opinion/border-wall-israel-lebanon-egypt.html?fbclid=IwAR2IvufnDGwWzcXvpbwEwrKwAFJn-N7FmFoKZG6eX_gXgv7_9if-2DoPPks.
The Israelis are nothing if not serious and sophisticated about border security. And with good reason. Alone among the nations of the world, Israel’s right to defend itself—indeed its very right to exist—is constantly questioned, critiqued, and opposed. Israel is surrounded by hostile neighbors which harbor terrorists bent on its destruction. The threats Israel faces are far, far, greater than anything confronting the United States at our southern border. So we should look very carefully at one of the ways the Israelis maintain—so far, successfully—their border security.
Much of their security is maintained by a physical barrier—in this instance, a fence—replete with sensors, cameras, and ever-vigilant guards. The Israeli fence and the technologies, operations, and personnel necessary to use it should be the real model for the establishment of a physical barrier along our border, and rational analysis should lead both Republicans and Democrats to follow Stephens’s recommendation and adopt the Israeli model as our own.
After all, the basis for a secure American fence is already in place, courtesy of the 2006 Secure Fence Act, adopted by Congress with bipartisan support. Chuck Schumer, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton all voted for it. The Secure Fence Act authorized the construction of 700 miles of fencing along our border with Mexico. Hence should Congress and the President agree to adopt an Israeli-style physical barrier system, implementation will be easier since much of the necessary infrastructure is already in place.
Moreover, the adoption of an Israeli-style system requires little abandonment of principle or loss of faith by either Democrats or Republicans. Such a system is perfectly consistent with, and builds on, the border fence whose creation both Democrats and Republicans already support. Granted, a fence is not the same as a wall, but it is still a physical barrier, and President Trump himself has occasionally signaled some flexibility on the matter, saying that the design and materials are open for debate, and admitting that the barrier—wall, fence, whatever—need not extend along the entire border, but only where natural barriers don’t exist.
Of course, there will be those in both parties who will oppose this solution: Many Democrats oppose a physical barrier of any sort, and will accuse Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer of giving in to President Trump, and many Republicans will no doubt accuse the President of abandoning his campaign promise and betraying his base should he cut a deal with the Democrats.
But President Trump and responsible leaders in both parties should nonetheless adopt the Israeli model, by providing more money to repair, upgrade, and extend the fence; to build more checkpoints and guard stations, to hire more personnel; to acquire more cameras, drones, and other technologies, including sensors within the fences; and to measure how effective the Israeli model works.
Whether or not any of this will actually happen remains to be seen. But should the Israeli model be adopted, and should it prove successful in enhancing our border security, than President Trump and congressional leaders, both Democratic and Republican, can truly claim to have mastered the art of the deal.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.