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Israel's Border and Security Problems

Courtesy Reuters

SEVEN years after its war of independence the State of Israel still faces a security problem of unusual complexity. The area of the country is only 8,100 square miles. But owing to the configuration of its territory there are 400 miles of frontier. Three-quarters of the population of Israel lives in the coastal plain, running from north of Haifa to south of Tel Aviv, with a slender salient branching off to Jerusalem. This densely settled area has an average width of no more than twelve miles between the Mediterranean and the Jordanian border. From the Israel Parliament buildings in Jerusalem the armed sentries of the Jordanian Arab Legion can be seen a few hundred yards away. The headquarters of the Israel General Staff in the coastal plain are within clear view from the hills which mark the Jordan frontier. The country's main roads and railways are exposed to swift and easy incursion. Scarcely anywhere in Israel can a man live or work beyond the easy range of enemy fire. Indeed, except in the Negev, no settlement is at a distance of more than 20 miles from an Arab frontier.

Thus the term "frontier security" has little meaning in the context of Israel's geography. The entire country is a frontier, and the whole rhythm of national life is affected by any hostile activity from the territory of neighboring states. On the other hand, the Arab states are in no such position. Border tensions affect a narrow fringe of their territories, beyond which stretch deep hinterlands entirely remote from the hazards and strains of frontier life. An American citizen who can cross a vast continent without seeing a foreign, let alone a hostile, face may require an unusual measure of imagination and humility to understand the unique vulnerability which geography imposes upon the people of Israel.

The effects of geographical vulnerability are aggravated by the fierce antagonism directed against Israel across her embattled frontiers. There is no other state in the world community whose very right

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