The degree to which the Israel Defense Forces think ahead can be seen from two reports by Felix Frisch published on the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth's Web site, Ynet. The first, from September 21, relates that "the separation fence to be built in the Gilboa region will include remote-control machine guns that will be operated by female soldiers from their command posts and will shoot at those suspected of being terrorists." The second, from September 22, relates that the IDF is already thinking about how to cope with the possibility that the Palestinians will dig tunnels under the separation fence, or cross over it by means of ropes or bridges stretched between the roofs on either side of the concrete wall, which, in built-up areas, divides buildings and streets.
According to Frisch, the new firing system will apparently be installed in the coming months in the mountainous regions through which the separation fence will run, on the eastern slopes of Mount Gilboa. Its purpose is to compensate for the small number of troops and the difficulties of movement in that area, "and to shoot at terrorists who try to cross the fence." The IDF is aware of the danger that innocents will be hurt. A senior officer told the reporter that in order to prevent mistakes, the guns will not fire automatically, but will be fired "by the female soldier who manages the lookout post and has been trained for this." The report did not say how she would be trained to tell whether the figure who appears on her video screen is a terrorist or an innocent man.
This is a reasonable division of labor: The political echelon deals with the political fallout from construction of the fence/wall - whether from the American government, the National Religious Party or the settlers' lobby. The military echelon deals with scenarios for attempts to sabotage the fence/wall or to infiltrate across it. The sweeping Israeli support for the separation fence, which is viewed as virtually the ultimate remedy for the security ills of the era of suicide attacks, dwarfs the Ynet reports.
This military-technological creativity is destroying the lives of tens of thousands of Palestinians, injuring their livelihoods and their property and dealing mortal blows to the view and the environment. But in Israel, it is considered a solution, because we think that everything is the fault of Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians - that terror runs in their blood, rather than being the fruit of political circumstances, namely the lengthy occupation.
This creativity is defended by the carefully nurtured political status quo. According to this status quo, as it is rooted in the Israeli consciousness, there have been two equal political entities engaged in peace negotiations since 1994: Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The Palestinian entity that has existed for the past nine years is post-modern: It is not dependent on territory or on sovereignty over territory. Sovereignty has been in the IDF's hands since 1967, and remained there throughout the Oslo years. The PA's status of near-equality to the State of Israel in the Israeli consciousness stems from the fact that various civilian powers - such as policing, the courts, tax collection, education, health and the payment of civil servants' salaries - were transferred to the Palestinian Authority in 1994. For the same reason, most Israelis are convinced that "the occupation has ended."
Because, according to the accepted wisdom, it was the Palestinian Authority that attacked Israel in September 2000, and Israel has since been fighting a defensive war. There is only one condition for unfreezing the diplomatic process: a battle by the Palestinian political entity against the terrorist organizations in its midst. And since that entity is not doing everything in its power, the IDF is obliged to attack - in self-defense - and to build separation and security fences the length of the West Bank and around the settlements, on top of the ban on Palestinian traffic that is in force on most West Bank roads.
The growth of the settlements, and the near doubling of the number of settlers, over the last decade are an integral part of that same status quo. The status of the Palestinian political entity, in the Israeli view, does not depend on territory, sovereignty over territory or control of resources, but on the end of Israel's civil responsibility for the Palestinians. Since the occupation ended with the transfer of civilian responsibility to the Palestinian leadership, the land, which until 1993 was defined as "occupied," has become "disputed territory," or "Area C" (land over which Israel retains both civilian and security control), or "state land." The entire land is open to Jews - for movement, settlement and residence. The Palestinians have the right to live in enclaves, and a very limited right of movement between these enclaves.
This military creativity teaches us that the political echelon does not intend to change the status quo. The separation fence does not alter the status quo. It makes things more difficult for Palestinians who think that suicide bombings inside Israel are the answer to the occupation, just as the fences and the flexible rules of engagement around the settlements have made things harder for those who wanted to attack the settlers. But this humiliating, strangulating status quo increases the number of Palestinians who dream about suicide attacks.
Our military creativity is so well-developed because Israel does not intend to achieve the reasonable political solution, the essence of which is the evacuation of all the settlements and a return to the June 1967 borders.
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