"Fenced In"

(New Republic/Israelinsider) - Yossi Klein Halevi Fencing out the Arab world violates the hope that Israel will one day find a cultural and spiritual place in the Middle East. A Jordanian acquaintance sympathetic to Israel recently warned me, the fence actually reduces Israel's deterrence by sending a message of weakness to the Arab world, reinforcing the popular Arab notion that Israel's demise is just a matter of time. The fence is a demarcation line between the Oslo era of Israeli delusions and the post-Oslo era of Israeli realism, embodying the lesson that the violent Palestinian rejection of peace three years ago wasn't merely a setback on the way to a comprehensive settlement but the negation of a comprehensive settlement. To insist otherwise is to risk repeating the Oslo syndrome of Palestinian deception and Israeli self-deception. And that's precisely what happened recently with the Geneva Accord, a bit of freelance diplomacy between left-wing Israelis, who obviously don't speak for the Sharon government, and Palestinians linked to Arafat. Even as Israelis who participated in these negotiations were heralding the Palestinians' renunciation of the right of return, Kadoura Fares, a Palestinian delegate to the talks, was reassuring his people that he had done no such thing. Indeed, to expect Arafat's regime to uphold its commitments is absurd. The fence, then, is Israel's acknowledgment that the Palestinian leadership - in this generation at least - won't honor any commitments to respect Israel's legitimacy. At most points, the fence either winds close to the green line or extends several miles over it without compromising Palestinian territorial contiguity - hardly the massive land grab warned against by opponents. Still, that apologetic argument misses the point, which is that the fence must violate the green line. Building the fence on the 1967 border would play into the Palestinian strategy by creating the outlines of a de facto Palestinian state in all of the West Bank, without requiring the Palestinians to cease terrorism or genuinely recognize Israel. Building over the green line, by contrast, reminds Palestinians that every time they've rejected compromise - whether in 1937, 1947, or 2000 - the potential map of Palestine shrinks. The fence is a warning: If Palestinians don't stop terrorism and forfeit their dream of destroying Israel, Israel may impose its own map on them. Indeed, the fence is a reminder that the 1967 border isn't sacrosanct. Legally, the West Bank is extraterritorial: The international community didn't recognize Jordan's annexation, and, because Palestine isn't being restored but invented, its borders are negotiable. We've learned in the decade since Oslo that "land for peace" was never an option. At best, Israel was being offered land for a cease-fire. And that is hardly justification for returning to the precarious 1967 lines. Thanks, ironically, to Oslo, which subjected the Palestinians to a decade of PA propaganda glorifying hatred of Israel - in schools, mosques, and the media - Palestinians are far less prepared for peace than they were before Oslo. Palestinians have begun calling the fence "The Apartheid Wall." In fact, it is neither apartheid nor a wall. The first surprise in encountering the fence is that it really is a fence, except for about five miles of concrete wall near the West Bank cities of Tulkarm and Kalkilya, necessary to prevent sniper attacks on an adjacent Israeli highway. The fence is hardly a case of the many suffering for the terrorism of the few. The war against Israel was initiated by the official Palestinian leadership with overwhelming popular support. According to one poll, 75% of Palestinians backed the recent suicide attack on Haifa's Maxim restaurant, which murdered three generations of two Jewish families and five Israeli Arabs. Palestinian society has been overtaken by a culture whose deepest longing isn't for the creation of a state of its own but

2003-11-05 00:00:00

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