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Anyone who is apprehensive that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is about to finally make his "painful concessions" should calm down immediately. Because anyone who places his ear on the "rail line" that connects Kadim and Ganim in the north of the West Bank with Otniel in the south, the line that runs through Kedumim and Ariel, Ofra and Efrat, the Etzion Bloc and Hebron, will not hear even a faint rumbling of the protest train. The settlers in the territories have suddenly become the silent majority on the other side of the fence.

True, a few politicians from the far right emitted a faint scream, leveled the usual pejorative - "traitor" - at Ehud Olmert and threatened to bring down the government. That was it. When was the last time the settlers felt called upon to mount a demonstration against government policy? When did they block Ra'anana Junction, and when - here's the real indicator - did they make use of the phrase "Yesha is here," meaning that the fate of Judea, Samaria and Gaza is the same as the fate of all of Israel? Yet even though Sharon is throwing out hints, and Olmert is speaking in clear terms, there is silence across the fence.

The settlers are the first to know when the leadership's intentions are serious. That's a skill that they have developed into a science, and it's crucial for them so as not to have to waste precious resources, such as the recruitment of demonstrators and the mobilization of public opinion. For example, ancient newspaper clippings - from two years ago, that is - will show that the settlers were against the separation fence. Some of them are even still opposed to a fence that will surround their settlement. They screamed at the time that the fence was a plan of the left to divide the Land of Israel. Of course, they "understand" the fears of the communities inside Israel, but preventing the partition of the Land of Israel is more important. Their fear was the Labor Party, the defense minister at the time, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, and a few more leftists would build the Green Line before their eyes.

Since the elections you can hardly find a settler who will talk against the fence. In short order they understood that it's not a security fence, and certainly not a fence that will protect them, but an original political creation: the de facto slicing up of the West Bank into cantons surrounded by fences. No one knows where the fence starts and where it ends, who's inside and who's outside. There is only one thing that's obvious to anyone who looks at its route: a Palestinian state cannot be established inside these compounds.

The fence has also become a way to jibe at the left. You wanted a fence? You planned to demarcate the border with barbed wire? Fine, but it will be the border of the Likud, Moledet and the National Religious Party - in other words, a non-border. And the wonder of it is that wherever the fence encompasses areas of the West Bank there are no settler outposts, because there is no need to seize land within "Israeli territory" in order to prove possession. Whatever is inside the fence is already safe, and there are even settlements that have been annexed to Israel by means of the fence. So there is no need to be impressed by the faint whining that is being heard about the "government fleeing" from the territories or about "rewarding terrorism" or about any "loss of the way." No way has been lost.

Still, one problem appears to remain: Too many settlements are outside the fence, within the territory that is designated for the Palestinians, and if the political process is implemented, heaven forbid, there might be renewed talk of dismantling settlements. However, it turns out that even this minor problem has a solution. The large blocs of settlements will also be surrounded by a fence, and protected corridors will be built to link them. There will thus be almost no end to the possibilities of carving up the territories and the settlement geography will achieve its goal - the atomization of the Arab towns and villages - and, if possible, as the fence is already doing in some of the Arab localities, their internal division.

When this project is completed, the old game of "Submarine" will be able to be played with new rules: Drawing an unbroken connecting line around areas that will remain in Arab hands will be incredibly difficult. And with this as the plan, it's no wonder that the settlers are no longer railing against the fence. After all, from now on there will be two banks to the fence: This is ours and so is this. And what about the "painful concessions"? Well, what about them?