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Occupation magazine - Commentary
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Olmert will converge; the occupation will continue
By: Menachem Klein
26 March 2006
Translated from Hebrew by Mark Marshall
In the year 2010, Olmert promises, Israel will have a border on the east. “Convergence” – that’s the name of the new game, after the end of the “disengagement”. Parties that do not agree to “converge” will not enter the government. It sounds convincing. Who needs the agreement of the Palestinians and the approval of the world, when we alone have been determining the facts on the ground since 1967? The important thing is that the United States is on our side.
Let us assume that it is possible, and that it is only us and the [US] Americans who determine the political reality. Let us flow with the idea. Is this going to be a regular border, that is, a clear line with walls and fences beyond which there are no Israeli forces? Absolutely not. The very fact that according to Olmert there is no partner on the Palestinian side obliges the Israeli army and the GSS* to be present on the other side of the convergence line. Conclusion: it is not Israel that is converging, but the settlers. Israeli forces will be present in territories that are defined partly as “enemy territory” and partly as “hostile territory”, which serve as a base for hostile actions and terrorism. The control of the territory and the gathering of intelligence on what is happening there will remain in the hands of Israel.
Olmert also declared that Israel will keep the Jordan Valley as a security strip. Thus we are speaking practically about three border lines: the one with the fences and the wall, across which there will be no settlers but only security forces; the one that separates the Palestinian population from the Jordan Valley; and the exterior one, along the Jordan River. The length of this threefold line is 929 kilometres, three times the length of the lines of 4 June 1967.** To these main lines must be added secondary lines: the roads that link the Jordan Valley to the territory on which Olmert calls for convergence, and the roads in the Palestinian territories to be used by the forces that control the population and ensure that it does not rise in rebellion or destroy the fences and walls within which it is imprisoned. Every such road separates the Israeli force from hostile territory, and they too are a kind of border.
According to Olmert’s plan, Israel must deter about two million Palestinians from rebelling, press the Palestinian Authority to eject the terrorists from its midst and recruit collaborators and informers from its ranks. So it will be necessary to continue with the system of encirclement, enforcing closures, checkpoints, arrests for the purpose of intelligence gathering, recruitment of collaborators, night-raids and assassinations of junior and senior activists. In other words, the settlements will converge behind the fence, but the military occupation will continue outside it. There will be a certain amount of relief for the Israeli army, because its soldiers will not be obliged to escort settlers to their aerobic dance classes or to evacuate buildings in illegal outposts in the face of resistance from the settlers and their supporters. But in terms of the security burden, nothing substantial will change.
The Palestinians will not reconcile themselves to this situation for long, all the less when ruled by a Hamas government. The use of advanced technological methods to control the long border lines may produce a certain economy in the manpower allocated to enforcing the occupation, but the change will not be dramatic. There will be a need for many army and GSS forces to enhance and enforce the occupation. Additional forces will be required to enforce the occupation on the Palestinians who find themselves between the fence and the June 1967 lines. The presence of many security forces in hostile territory and long border lines convert every soldier, vehicle and installation into a target for the guerrilla warfare that Palestinian forces will conduct. The tunnels that were dug in the Gaza Strip and the Qassam missiles exposed the weak points in Israeli superiority. Many more such weak points can be expected in the West Bank, where the length of the border lines that Olmert proposes and the level of friction are much greater than in the Gaza Strip.
Olmert’s proposal shows that he learned the lessons of the experience of the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza Strip. The credit-column shows the achievement – soldiers and settlers are not present in the Gaza Strip; but the debit-column is much longer. Most of the Israeli and [US] American illusions did not materialize, because it was a unilateral process. Unilateralism obliges Israel to employ force in a variety of ways, and that in itself motivates the Palestinians to respond, sometimes with terrorist attacks and sometimes through the ballot-box. And thus Israel finds itself in a state of strategic fragmentation.
But it was not only the experience of the withdrawal that failed in Gaza; also the policy of assassinations was a searing failure. Israel assassinated most of the founders and leaders of Hamas and its main activists, but the Palestinian people brought Hamas to power through democratic elections. What was seared into the Palestinian consciousness was the opposite of what Israel wanted to be seared there. The strategy of containment and management of the conflict was shattered with the rise of the Hamas government. The call of Olmert’s government for a total boycott of the Hamas government and the public that elected it shows that it understands that it failed on this point. And what solution does Olmert propose? A return to the unilateral path on a large scale, on a much larger scale.
[Dr. Menachem Klein, a lecturer in political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States, is one of the initiators of the Geneva Initiative]
* General Security Service – Shin Bet, or Shabak: Israel’s internal security service - trans.
** i.e. the 1949 armistice lines: Israel’s borders on the eve of the Six-Day War in 1967 - trans.
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