ALTHOUGH yesterday's destruction of parts of Israel's border wall between Gaza and Egypt may only exacerbate problems in the short term, it is difficult to withhold a certain sense of satisfaction that part of Israel's hated security wall should have been shown to be vulnerable. The wall has been declared by the International Court of Justice to be illegal and in places it has been constructed on land arbitrarily seized from Palestinians.

It has made it possible for Israel to imprison 1.5 million Gazans and inflict cruel sanctions against them. Prisoners will always look for a way to escape and yesterday some 350'000 Gazans flooded across to Egypt to obtain essential goods blocked by Israeli check points.

Yesterday's uncontrolled event showed just how foolish it has been for the Western powers to pretend that the problem of Gaza and Hamas could be ignored while they pursued their two-state peace plan under the whip of President Bush's timetable for a solution before he leaves office. As the days pass since Mr Bush's peace mission to the Middle East it becomes increasingly clear that he achieved virtually nothing. The United States, the European Union and Israel refused to negotiate with Hamas after it won a free and fair election two years ago; many of today's difficulties stem from that foolish decision. Sooner or later both the West Bank Palestinians and the West will have to talk to Hamas.


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