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  Sunday  November 2  2003    10: 49 AM

Our Place in the World: Wall more about control than security

Expatriate Israelis, and Americans sympathetic to the Israeli cause, complain about the U.S. media's "anti-Israeli bias." Indeed, upon arriving from Israel last year, the image of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict portrayed by U.S. media appeared to me so distorted as to be almost unrecognizable. But the direction of the distortion was rather surprising.

This is the image I keep receiving here: On one side is a democracy stuck in an impossible region and trying to make the best of it. On the other is a demonic entity called the Palestinian Authority, whose heads seem bent on continuing to terrorize Israel's defenseless civilians. Everything Israel's army does is clearly out of self-defense, and as long as there's terror, there's justification to do even more.

How odd, I tell myself. This is exactly the worldview I've been spoon-fed by my establishment and education system from the day I remember myself.

The only true part in this image is that my compatriots in Israel are at risk of terror attacks. All the rest is blatantly false. For starters, the Palestinian Authority is a powerless, almost meaningless body, whose leaders cannot cross the street in Ramallah without permission from an Israeli soldier. Even at its heyday, the authority's power relative to Israel's was akin to that of the King County Council compared with the U.S. government. This little piece of knowledge alone collapses the entire image. It also raises serious suspicions as to who has been shaping the current reality.

That is not all: The ongoing "security fence" project is presented here as a defense measure and claims against it are made to sound as whining. Reporters fail to tell us that this is not a fence but a huge system of walls and ditches. Masked by a clever campaign of deceit, this system is gradually crisscrossing the Palestinian heartland. It rips apart some Palestinian towns and encroaches on the outskirts of others. Were the American public presented with pictures of the massive walls and fences already surrounding the town of Kalkilia, many might wonder whether this is about security or about repression and control.

The bluff goes on and on

However, something else is happening. The occupation is becoming ever deeper and more entrenched. This is obvious in the way that facts are being created in the territories. In cabinet meetings, or in communiques for the public, these developments go by other names. For example, "additional investments" to build hundreds of new homes in the territories, or "planning of the eastern fence," which is actually designed to confine all the Palestinians inside a fenced-off ghetto.

That was not the intention when the idea of building a fence was first broached; the idea was to build a fence as protection against terrorism and to prevent the large-scale, illegal entry of Palestinians into Israel. The abduction of the fence by the settlers, with the government's help, and its transformation from a defensive into a political barrier, is liable to deepen the occupation further.

Corridors of Power / Contemplating a no-win victory

In the IDF, they know there is no military solution to terror, but they are afraid to say this out loud, and certainly reluctant to draw the necessary conclusions from this. The IDF continues to make the utmost effort to fulfill the government's directives and to achieve quiet and security for the state's citizens under the present conditions, but deep down, its commanders know this is mission impossible. The more realistic among them are disheartened by their awareness of the chasm between the government's expectations of them and their ability to fulfill these expectations. Even the most honest among them are too proud to acknowledge the uselessness of their military actions and reject outright any suggestion that terror is able to exert a certain influence on the situation. They will not consent to the idea that there is a need to reach a compromise with the Palestinians, and they are also unable to put aside the compulsion to emerge from this conflict as well with a declaration of "victory."