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This is not the first time the High Court of Justice has heard petitions from human rights organizations and by West Bank residents on the separation fence. They

claim it separates Palestinians from their centers of production and sources of water. And now, as in the hundreds of previous petitions relating to the territories that named state agencies as respondents, this time too the magic words "security needs" star in the state's responses.

In the past, this magic phrase left petitioners with no chance. In a previous petition relating to the fence, an affidavit by the army's GOC Central Command stated that "the route was chosen following accelerated staff work, including an examination of alternatives." This was good enough for the court to permit the army to seize lands, uproot plantations, and embitter the lives of residents of A-Ras and Kafr Zur, two villages in the northern West Bank.

On August 20, 2002, a week after the cabinet discussed the route of the fence in that region, the GOC Central Command signed a new expropriation order that showed a different route. Various other changes in the route, sometimes in response to pressure from the settlers and sometimes in response to pressure from the Americans, ought to remind the public - including those members of it who sit on the Supreme Court - that security is much more closely related to politics than to mathematics.

Colonel (reserve) Shaul Arieli, who headed the peace administration in the days of Ehud Barak's government and coordinated preparation of the maps, drafted an alternative to the route of the fence approved by the cabinet. His route, based on pure security considerations, puts the same number of Israelis in the protected area west of the fence as does the current route.

But instead of biting 900 square kilometers out of the West Bank, it seizes less than 300 sq.km. - and this includes putting Ma'aleh Adumim, with its 30,000 residents, west of the fence.

This route also reduces the number of Palestinians who are imprisoned between the fence, including the "Jerusalem envelope, and Israel, the Green Line, and therefore distanced from their service providers in the territories, from 400,000 to 56,000. Arieli's route does not separate Palestinian farmers from their lands and wells, nor does it divide students from their schools.

Anyone who was truly worried about the security of Israel's citizens would not leave tens of thousands of hostile Palestinians hungry for vengeance west of the fence. Only a plot to turn security into a tool to undermine itself in order to annex territory de facto could explain why a fence that devours time, money and diplomatic assets is preferable to a shorter, cheaper fence that does not arouse hatred.

The politics of the fence do not revolve around security, nor even around the moral and legal issues that arise from Israeli control over additional square kilometers of territory along the Green Line. The concept of the fence, just like the disengagement plan, conceals a much deeper political agenda.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon discovered that the fear of terror attacks gave him a magical tool that would enable him to draw the country's permanent borders unilaterally. The public is so eager for a defensive wall that would once and for all distance it from the terrorists and suicide bombers that it has paid no attention to the fact that unilateral solutions distance it from the strategic goal of an end to the conflict.

The only solution with the power to put the parties on the long road to reconciliation was and remains an agreement that enjoys international legitimacy - meaning one based on UN Resolution 242 and the 1967 lines.

The "little plan" of disengagement from Gaza, accompanied by the screams of the settlers, is meant to win America's heart so that it will stop complaining about the fence and allow Sharon to complete "the grand plan" of annexing territory in the West Bank. If, along with enabling this annexation, disengagement also frees the Israel Defense Forces of the burden of controlling 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip, that is merely a bonus for the government.

After three years of a hope-destroying stalemate, the disengagement plan is so tempting that it has blinded the eyes of members of the Israeli "peace camp." Many have become too bleary-eyed to see the enormous political slogan inscribed on both sides of the fence. It says that there is no partner for an agreement, and that we have been sentenced to live with fences and swords for all eternity.