What, exactly, did they say in the International Court of Justice at The Hague? Who showed up and who didn't? How many judges does the court have on its panel? Who is the Egyptian judge Nabil Elaraby? What is the background of the Jordanian judge, Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawne? The two Arab judges have become a symbol of this court's bias. Because in a place where Arabs are serving, you can bet that nothing good can come of it for Israel. But none of this is of interest any longer. This court is, in any case, perceived as another international arena whose only purpose is to damage Israel's good name in the best case, or prevent it from preserving its security in the worst case. Israel recognizes only one international court - the one located in the Oval Office of the White House.
Thus, the legitimate, nonviolent arena for clarifying the legality of the fence quickly developed into a struggle between symbols and a competition between victims: On the one side, a gutted bus belonging to the national public transportation monopoly, and posters of Israeli victims of terrorism; on the other side, two processions of Palestinians who have been hurt by the occupation. What opinion will the court hand down? That's also of less interest. What's more important is what the world's press will say about the opinion and which countries will be "for us, which will be "for them" and who will emerge as the greater victim?
The fence, then, may well conclude its role as a security means and enter the lexicon of national symbols. The modern wall with the addition of the mythical phrase "wall and tower" - more usually known as the "tower and stockade" settlements of the pre-state era - or the military creation known as Operation Defensive Wall (in the English version: Defensive Shield). With the wall, the State of Israel shall be sustained; without it, the Zionist vision will collapse. This is also the national fence of the Palestinians, the blocks of concrete that for a moment placed the Palestinian question back on the international stage. Fence op-eds, fence cartoons, fence graffiti, fence paintings - this is the cultural creation the conflict has produced. "I see the suffering of the Palestinians, but I can't be against the fence," I was told by a young leader from a Jewish-American organization. "Why? Because of the security aspect?" I asked. "No, no, I don't know anything about that. But to oppose the fence today is to oppose Israel, it's to play into the hands of the anti-Semites." So now the fence is also a symbol of a Jewish struggle: Anyone who doesn't identify with the fence loses his identity as a Jew. Just as the fence has become the new banner of the Arab struggle. That's what the show in the courtroom in The Hague and in the streets outside was all about.
It's also here that the great success of the fence lies. It was inculcated in the Israeli consciousness as the most just and effective solution for Israel's security. "It's not we who built the fence, it's the Palestinians with their explosive belts who built it," has become the national conscience-allaying explanation. And explosive belts, we all know, are a genetic thing with the Palestinians. "If we had built the fence three years ago, we would have been spared the terrorist attack in Jerusalem," declared Uzi Dayan, the former deputy chief of staff, who claims to hold the copyright for the idea of the fence. That statement effectively annuls everything the Israel Defense Forces has done in the past three and a half years of the intifada. The targeted and untargeted assassinations, the rolling operations, the closures, the sieges, the checkpoints - all pale into insignificance in the face of the miracle that the fence promises. It's not only a military miracle the fence will foment, it's also a highly advantageous political solution: Only when the fence is completed will it be possible to commence negotiations with the Palestinians, because there will be no more terrorism inside Israel. And, alternatively, only when the fence is completed will there be no more need to conduct negotiations with the Palestinians, because there will be no more terrorism inside Israel.
Only one small problem remains, which begs an explanation: If this fence, along whatever route, will protect the inhabitants of Netanya and Ra'anana, who is going to protect the inhabitants of Ofra and the Etzion Bloc settlements? Don't they deserve a protective fence? Of course they do, but their protection will continue to be provided by the IDF. In other words, the war will continue, but in the territory of Israel B, the section across the Green Line, on the other side of the fence. What we have here is the national meaning of Arik Einstein's song, "Sitting on the fence, one leg here, one leg there."
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