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Does Karnei Shomron lie within the borders of the State of Israel or in the territories? And what about Bat Hefer? On which side of the border is Kfar Darom? And does Baka al-Garbiyeh belong to the Israeli Arabs or to the Palestinian Arabs?

A group of students that sought answers to these questions wrestled with them and argued until finally reaching a consensus that had little to do with reality.

One of the students, for example, suggested the following: "If we have to return Bat Hefer to the Arabs, then we'll return it. There's no reason to remain in territories that aren't ours."

"We are arguing over virtual questions," another said. "We aren't all still familiar with the map of the State of Israel yet. Every community with a Hebrew name is considered part of the State of Israel, while every one with an Arab name is Palestinian. I no longer know what borders we're fighting for."

Judging by this discussion alone, the residents of the settlements have nothing to fear - they have become an integral part of the state. It seems that the settlements have never before had as much legitimacy as they have accumulated over the past year.

"Perhaps the greatest achievement of this war is that the citizens of Israel realize that there is no difference between the blood of a settler and that of a resident of Israel," said a settler from the West Bank. "The terror, which doesn't make a distinction, has, in effect, expanded the borders of the state and has annexed us to it. I can assume that if Ze'ev Sternhell were to write his article today [an article in which Sternhell made a distinction between attacks on settlers and strikes on Israeli residents - Z.B.], he would not face flak from the right wing only. The public, even those who do not support the settlement enterprise, has significantly broadened its conceptions of who is Israeli and, by extension, of the borders of the state."

During the months of war, the borders of the State of Israel have become fluid boundaries. Under the cover of the war against terror, the occupied territories have become an indivisible part of the state. The Israel Defense Forces no longer speaks of entering Area A; instead, it reports that it has taken control of territory in Ramallah, Jenin or Nablus, entered the Balata refugee camp or arrested suspects in Hebron.

The geopolitical distinction between areas belonging to the Palestinian Authority and occupied territory has disappeared, not only in relation to the Palestinians, but also in relation to the settlements. Indeed, with the foundations of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict being rebuilt anew, weekly or even daily, on the foundations of revenge for an assassination that came as retribution for a terror attack, and while clutching on to a few pages of the history book, the illusion that the settlements have no connection to the conflict and are, therefore, no part of the solution either is reinforced.

So when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon speaks about buffer zones and stresses that they will protect "all Israeli citizens," he is also speaking about buffer zones within the territories, and not only of ones between the territories and Israel. The demolition of homes, "exposure" and the opening of "avenues of protection" along the lines of the model so familiar to him from the 1970s in Gaza are supposed to protect those citizens of Israel who are not residents of Israel.

The bypass roads will be replaced by encompassing buffer zones; and it will all be accepted as natural. After all, if Israel created a buffer zone in Lebanon so as to protect Kiryat Shmona, why isn't it legitimate to create a buffer zone to protect communities in the Katif Bloc?

Israel is increasingly becoming a borderless state. Not only has it branched out into geographic areas that do not belong to it, allowing marginal, ideological groups to develop to the point of creating a military and political "protected geographic space" within a foreign political and social space, but it has now arrived at a new stage: Israel itself is moving into the territories.

Protecting the borders of the state is no longer the basis for political prestige; maintaining the legitimacy of internationally-recognized borders and preserving the stability of a national Jewish state are no longer the most important issues.

To the contrary, the Green Line is turning into an internal border between two seemingly-equal Israeli provinces. The dream is once more determining the borders of the state, first Kedumim [in the West Bank], and then Netanya.