Road Map to Perpetuating the Status Quo

The rude awakening from the illusion of the wings of history flapping over the Aqaba summit and its launch of the road map was particularly traumatic, and all those who waxed poetic about the new dawn would now prefer not to be reminded of their historiosophic enthrallment.

The rude awakening from the illusion of the wings of history flapping over the Aqaba summit and its launch of the road map was particularly traumatic, and all those who waxed poetic about the new dawn would now prefer not to be reminded of their historiosophic enthrallment.

Opportunities missed, whether maliciously or stupidly, and festive occasions that turn into fiascoes, are among the characteristics of the Israel-Arab dispute and the road map won't be the last.

But in all its wiliness, history summons occasions that have a seemingly self-evident significance, but in retrospect they signal contradictory and opposite processes. From that perspective, the launch of the road map is, indeed, an unusual historic occasion: Seemingly, the "division of the Holy Land" was announced but, in effect, it brings the principle of the connection between territory and ethnic identity (on which the partition principle is based) to its absurd limits.

Seemingly, the principle of "two states for two peoples" and the principle of national sovereignty won. But, in effect, what's being proposed is a regime of ethnic cantons inside a geopolitical unit comparable to the old south Africa, in which the connection between land and nationalism is only safeguarded for the dominant Jewish nationality.

It's impossible to disconnect the road map, its formulas and definitions, from the political and military reality that exists in the occupied territories, and which it seemingly seeks to change. This reality has two symbols: the outposts and the checkpoints. Both are meant to paint the open areas of the West Bank in Jewish colors.

The settlers are trying to establish areas of control that will guarantee "Jewish" contiguity between their settlements and break up the contiguity for Palestinian towns and villages. That's why they are establishing outposts, gas stations, industrial zones and access roads. Knowing they are a minority in their immediate environment, they trust the Israel Defense Forces - their national militia - to make it difficult and, indeed, impossible for the Palestinians to use the force of their demographic advantage, with the army making sure the human masses remain in their closed camps. The territory will thus remain under Jewish control, since only the Jewish connection to the territory is legitimate; it's well-known that's the essence of Zionism.

The outposts are not a political demonstration against the government and the checkpoints are not derived from the security reality. They are symbols of control, and between them, if there's room, a provisional Palestinian state is supposed to be established. There's no connection between that state and sovereign, national Palestinian territory. The prime minister declares, to the cheers of the left, that the occupation must be ended, but immediately announces that he meant the occupation of people, not territory. The people, cut off from the land, will win national liberation in cantons designated for them beyond the "separation fence," and their "territorial contiguity" will be accomplished with bridges and tunnels.

The "state" that will be established will be of a totally new sort: its "sovereignty" will be scattered, lacking any physical infrastructure, without any direct connection to the outside world, and limited to the height of it residential buildings and the depth of its graves. The airspace and the water resources will remain under Israeli sovereignty. Helicopter patrols, control over the electromagnetic dimension, the hands on the water pumps and the electricity switches, passes to enter and leave, goods passed "back to back" - it will all receive the approval of the road map inspectors.

Indeed, this is a unique Israeli-American contribution to political science, and to the definition of national sovereignty and the division of the Holy Land, for which Ariel Sharon has won high praise from President Bush "for his leadership and commitment to build a better future for the Palestinians." And it's all to come about, of course, on the condition that the Palestinians appreciate the generosity and pay for it accordingly.

Sharon is also insulted by the settlers for his "betrayal of the cause," even though the settlement movement's leaders know the road map makes permanent their territorial achievements. The left is beside itself in light of the ideological rival who finally adopted their positions, as if the ridiculous caricature of a Palestinian state, beheaded and without feet, future, or any chance of development, is the fulfillment of the goal of symmetry and equality embodied in the old slogan, "two states for two peoples."

The road map won't lead anywhere because a solution based on the connection between territory and ethnic identity - which was applicable up to about 20 years ago - cannot be implemented and any attempt to implement it will only complicate the problem instead of solving it. The key is now to be found elsewhere; in an area that does not regard the geopolitical division as a national ideal. The road map will apparently be the last plan to refer to partition - or the need for a connection between identity and territory - as the only solution. Ignorant people on the right and blind people on the left will regard this as preaching for the "greater land of Israel" and will treat alternative proposals according to their traditional attitudes. But the only choice left is between a regime of a Jewish minority over an Arab majority without civil rights, or a multi-cultural governmental framework, usually referred to as a "binational state." The road map and the rest of the plans based on "separation" are simply dreams perpetuating the status quo.