Text size

"God be praised that the fate of Israel and of the Jewish nation is not decided in this hall," Israel's United Nations ambassador Dan Gillerman declared after the General Assembly voted to accept the recommendation of the International Court of Justice at The Hague concerning the separation fence.

Gillerman got a bit carried away, because the fate of Israel, and more especially recognition of it as a state, were in fact decided not only in this world but in this very hall in the UN building. It's true that since then the atmosphere and the voting patterns that have foisted themselves on the world body have been such that they opposed Israel almost systematically. It's true that the occupation of the territories was extensively criticized and came in for a flood of condemnatory resolutions, to the point where it seemed that the UN was working in the service of the opposition in Israel. Still, it's not out of place to remember that, precisely on a question relating to fences, it was Israel that relied heavily on UN resolutions.

In Lebanon, for example. The demarcation of the border between Israel and Lebanon and the building of the problematic fence along the length of the border could not have passed peacefully and won renewed recognition without UN auspices and the agreement of the sides to accept the UN's decision. Even Syria agreed to declare that Israel had fulfilled its commitment according to Security Council Resolution 425, from 1978, and had pulled out completely from Lebanon. The Shaba Farms, again according to the UN, "belong" to a different Security Council resolution, namely 242. Their fate will be decided within the framework of negotiations with Syria. It is that UN decision that gives Israel legitimacy to go on holding the farms.

But wait a minute - isn't this the same Resolution 242 based on which the General Assembly last week, and before it the court in The Hague, decided that Israel must destroy the separation fence in the West Bank? It's the same occupation regarding which Israel sometimes adopts the decisions of the international community and sometimes rejects them, based on its own convenience. Has the UN changed and retracted its previous resolutions? No, it's the nature of the fence that has changed.

In Lebanon, Israel declared that it was withdrawing to the recognized international boundary between the two countries. "Recognized" means recognized by the United Nations. Lebanon made a sour face, Hezbollah said no, Syria ranted and raved for a time, but in the end the people with the blue helmets, carrying maps that were in part controversial, decided what was the recognized border. Israel was satisfied and also executed the pullback to the last centimeter. There was nothing in the decision by the prime minister at the time, Ehud Barak, to the effect that it would be necessary to build the fence a few kilometers inside Lebanon in order to prevent future attacks by Hezbollah, and no one complained about the Arab character of the UN that decided the border without taking into consideration terrorist attacks by Hezbollah.

Between Israel and the West Bank there is ostensibly no agreed and recognized international border, not even according to Resolution 242, which calls for negotiations to be conducted on secure and agreed borders. However, in contrast to Lebanon, where an agreed border is also supposed to be a secure border - as indeed it is, most of the time - Israel maintains the opposite in the West Bank: A secure border will be an agreed border. This is the heart of the great bluff that rests on two bluffs of equal magnitude. The first holds that there can be an agreed border along a fence on one side of which are dozens of settlements and about a quarter of a million settlers, and the second is that the fence is temporary and will be rectified in conjunction with an agreement.

The result is a logical conundrum: If an agreement will rectify the route of the fence, the implication is that the Palestinians will, in fact, agree to leaving the settlements across the fence or that Israel will agree to dismantling them. If neither development occurs, it's doubtful the border will be able to be considered secure, and if it's not secure it can't be agreed, according to the Israeli logic. The problem at the moment is not what the international court at The Hague said or didn't say, or whether the UN is pro-Arab or only anti-Israeli, or whether the separation fence is the pillar of Israel's security. The main point is the bluffs this government will use to continue to sell the fence at home.