WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Republican majority on the Senate Homeland Security Committee published a report favorably comparing Israel’s security barriers with the existing fence on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Securing Israel: Lessons Learned From A Nation Under Constant Threat Of Attack” was posted Wednesday on the website of the Senate Homeland Security Committee and includes reportage by the committee’s chairman, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who visited Israel in December and toured the fences and barriers along its borders with the Gaza Strip and inside the West Bank.
Johnson is presenting the report as one that could be useful to President Donald Trump and his proposal to separate the United States from Mexico with a wall.
“There is much the United States can learn from Israel as Secretary (John) Kelly and the Trump Administration take important steps forward in securing our homeland,” said the release accompanying the report. Trump has cited Israel’s barriers as an example of what he hopes to build.
The report says Israel spends less per mile on guarding its fence with Egypt than the United States spends on defending its existing fence with Mexico. For instance, the report said, Israel spends $58,000 per mile per year to protect its Egyptian border, as opposed to the $77,000 per mile that the United States spends each year along the Mexican border.
It also notes the disparities between the borders: Israel’s 147-mile fence covers virtually the entirety of the Israel-Egypt border, while fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border covers just 654 miles of its length, which reaches almost 2,000 miles.
One reason for the additional expense in protecting the U.S.-Mexico border, it says, is the cost in delivering equipment to remote parts of the border, which is not a factor with Israel’s smaller distances.
The report recommends Israel’s “layered approach,” which on the Egyptian border includes a ditch, razor wire fencing, the fence itself and infrastructure including dirt roads, which help track intruders.
The report quotes conversations between Johnson and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and was posted just days after Netanyahu set off a minor diplomatic crisis when he posted a tweet about border walls saying “President Trump is right” and describing the success of the fence with Egypt.
Mexico’s government, believing Netanyahu in his tweet was affirming Trump’s arguments about the Mexican border, took offense. President Enrique Pena Nieto was assuaged only after his Israeli counterpart, Reuven Rivlin, told him that there had been a misunderstanding.
Much of the sourcing for the Republican majority’s report appears to be from the Israeli government and pro-Israel outlets. The introduction casts Israel’s barriers as resulting in part from what it depicts as former President Barack Obama’s misguided Middle East policies, although the barriers were built or planned before Obama took office.
There also are anomalies. The report describes the West Bank security barrier as running “325 to 650 feet into the West Bank,” although there are sections of that barrier encompassing settlements that run much deeper into the territory.