There's been a lot of talk this week about The Wall. It was one of then-candidate Trump's first promises. Over a decade ago, Israel built a wall of its own to stop terrorist attacks. We wanted to see the so-called "separation barrier" for ourselves and find out what America can learn from a wall that works. Full Measure contributing correspondent John Huddy reports from the Israeli/West Bank border.
On a hill overlooking the Palestinian village of Bayt Jala, south of Jerusalem, we look down upon the West Bank separation barrier snaking its way through the valley and wrapping around the rocky hillsides. It's an impressive view, one that Dr. Dany Tirza knows well. The retired Israeli Army colonel was the architect of the separation barrier, or as critics call it, the "apartheid wall," 360 miles of fence and concrete barrier that surrounds the West Bank and its nearly three million residents.
Dany Tirza: In March 2002, in one month, we lost 128 people murdered by terror attacks and people said to the government that enough is enough. We cannot live with such terror. Do something! Build something!
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon approved construction of the separation barrier in 2002. It took five years to build. The Israeli military, or IDF, says during the peak terror years in Israel, thirteen-hundred people were killed by suicide bombings. When the largest section of the barrier was completed in 2006, the suicide bombings stopped. Israeli leaders credit a combination of the barrier and Israeli security forces for stopping the spread of terrorist attacks. President Trump noted the Israeli wall just this week.
President Trump: Without the wall, we cannot have border security. All you have to do is ask Israel. Look what happened with them.
Ivri Elbaz: We are at the green line. It's a border between the Israel and the West Bank, the Palestinian area.
Lieutenant Colonel Ivri Elbaz is commander of the IDF's Givati Brigade that patrols the northern West Bank border.
Ivri Elbaz: They can go. It's not a jail. It's a security fence. We allow them to pass when needed.
On the day we visited, 21 people were caught trying to illegally cross into Israel. Terrorism was not a factor this particularly day, but infiltration attempts are constant.
Ivri Elbaz: It's a combination of a sensor that can give us time of touching or pressure.
John: So you can distinguish between a bird or human being.
Ivri Elbaz: Yes, if it's a bird, or human being, or animal.
Donald Trump: We will build the wall, yes. We will build the wall.
The Trump Administration is considering eight prototypes for the Mexico border. And like Israel, there will be a combination of wall and fencing, and in some parts of the border, natural terrain to serve as a barrier. In Israel, the 30-foot high and nearly two-foot thick concrete walls total less than 10 percent of the West Bank border. On one side of the wall here in Bethlehem it's blackened and scorched from the years of fighting, of riots. There's even empty tear gas canisters. And then, just on the other side here, it becomes a colorful display of protest that's become even a tourist destination. Anton Salman is the mayor of Bethlehem, the Palestinian controlled city in the West Bank and the biblical birthplace of Jesus. He says, there will always be anger if the wall remains standing. Anger that often erupts into violence.
Anton Salman: You use the word violence several times, and I don't like the word. I don't like it at all.
John: You wouldn't call what we're seeing violence?
Anton Salman: When the people went out in protesting, it's a civil protestation, they have nothing in their hands, and the clashes became, as a result of the treatment that Israel soldiers are treating the people in Palestine.
Many Palestinians have compared the concrete sections of barrier to that of prison walls. Others who are allowed to cross complain of long waits, and days when the Israeli government shuts down the border crossings without notice. Dr. Tirza says America faces similar challenges like that of Israel, including balancing the rights of people on the ground and protecting the security of a nation. But he says, while Israel's separation barrier has been a success, it was never meant to be permanent.
John: You walked every kilometer, every mile of the wall, would you like to see it removed one day?
Dany Tirza: I really hope I will be the one I will be alive I will be the one to take off the first stone of Jerusalem. I really hope there will come a day and we can have a peace agreement between the sides and there will be no fear of terror. And we can remove these walls and live normally and quietly with our neighbors the Palestinians.
For now though, Israel's hulking border wall and long winding fence will remain standing.