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An odd thing happened during Condoleezza Rice's visit to Israel and the territories. The national security adviser to the U.S. president brought the White House into a strange and unholy coalition with the Jewish settlers in the territories and the Palestinians. All three, each for their own reasons, are opposed to the construction of the security fence that is supposed to separate Israel from the territories of the West Bank.

The settlers argue in their publications that those who "are pushing for the construction of the fence are leftists in Israel who pushed for the Oslo disaster and people who have economic interests, among them former senior people in the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet security service who are working in tandem with corrupt senior officials in the Palestinian Authority. It is all intended to bring Israel back into the 1967 borders and cause the destruction of the settlements in Yesha [the acronym for Judea, Samaria and Gaza, which also means "salvation" in Hebrew]." In thwarting the fence, the settlers do not want to expose Israeli inhabitants within the Green Line (1967 border) to acts of terror, but their intention is that the occupation and all it involves will continue.

According to the other coalition partner, the Palestinians, the fence is a border that Israel is determining unilaterally and its path will run through territories east of the Green Line. But their intention is that the border with Israel will be porous and that the process of tens of thousands of Palestinians coming in to live without permission in Arab villages within Israel will continue. These are the "illegal residents," whose number is estimated by some at between 150,000 and 200,000.

During her visit to Israel, Condoleezza Rice was scrupulous about not allowing details from her meetings to be made public, but it did "happen" that her opposition to the security fence was "leaked." Among other things, she said this was a unilateral diplomatic move. It is true that building a separation fence between Israel and the territories is a unilateral move, but it is a step that was not taken immediately after the Oslo agreements, or because of them, as the settlers claim, but rather following unbridled suicide attacks. The separation fence is more justified than the fence the United States erected between itself and Mexico in order to prevent its inundation with illegal immigrants, and not necessarily to block terrorists who want to carry out mass killings in the United States. If we extend Rice's reasoning, the security fence surrounding the Gaza Strip also has to be torn down. Here, too, Israel put the fence up unilaterally and took one of its most important security measures in combating suicide attacks. The automatic opposition by Rice, America's expert on national security, is proof that even a representative of a great power is not free of superficial decisions that are shot from the hip.

Had President George W. Bush's adviser said, for example, that Israel must remember that this is not a matter of establishing a border, which will be decided upon in negotiations, and that any change in the placement of the border, when the time comes, will obligate the removal of the security fence from that location - okay. The truth is, Israel must remember that the fence is aimed at protecting its population from terror and at preventing the return to Israel of deported illegal residents, many of whom are partners to acts of terrorism. It is not to make life difficult for the Palestinians who live near the fence line or to get them off their land. If the erection of the fence is accompanied by aid projects to improve economic conditions for the Palestinians, it will not be perceived as a measure aimed only at harming them. Such a separation fence must be insisted upon today, even vis-?-vis the United States, despite the fact that Israel's dependence on Washington has reached a peak. Condoleezza Rice will also understand that a porous fence is a formula that makes things easier for terror and crime.