Campaigning candidates tend to repress certain issues, until they resume their agenda after the elections.
For example, completing the separation fence in Jerusalem. The fence's planned route leaves some 200,000 Palestinians in the western, "Israeli" side. They don't want to be Israelis, and Israel has no interest in their naturalization and integration, for demographic reasons. Yet a wall separating Arabs from each other is being built.
The folly of the fence in Jerusalem is obvious to all: it annexes to Israel Palestinian neighborhoods and villages that are devoid of any historical or emotional significance to the Jewish nation, while imposing on the capital an unnecessary economic, political and demographic burden and a security hazard. On the other hand, there is the false sanctity of the municipal Jerusalem border, which was hastily marked under the intoxication of the victory of the Six-Day War.
Ariel Sharon is aware of this problem. He set the rule that the separation fence must add as few Palestinians as possible to the Israeli side. He approved excluding the large refugee camp in Shuafat from the fence route in Jerusalem, while pondering in secret whether it would not have been better to move the wall even further west so that additional Palestinian neighborhoods are not included in the Israeli side. But in the former political circumstances such a change would have raised a general uprising in the Likud. In that case, the "rebels" acting against the pullout from Gaza would have paled by comparison.
Sharon's aides say the "Jerusalem issue is closed" and the route will not be altered. The Likud's dissolution provides an opportunity to discuss it anew before the fence construction is complete and it is too late.
Some of Kadima's leaders will surely support this - Ehud Olmert suggested a while ago to leave the peripheral neighborhoods of Jerusalem outside the fence and to keep only the Old City, Mount of Olives and their surroundings, Sheikh Jarrah and Ras al Amud. Tzipi Livni says the separation fence will be "Israel's future border." If so, why keep tens of thousands of Palestinians in Jerusalem's outlying neighborhoods on the Israeli side? Wouldn't it be better to take a long-term view in considering the route?
After the elections the fate of the isolated West Bank settlements will also come up for debate. Sharon says he wants to maintain control of the large settlement blocs and the "security areas" such as the Jordan Valley. He refers with ambiguity to the future of the settlements on the mountainous region, which would remain beyond the fence inside the Palestinian population concentrations. People in his party believe he intends to evacuate 20 such settlements (his bureau denies this). The problem is that this time we are not dealing with the farmers of Gush Katif but with the settlers' most ideological group. Before they are evacuated - either by agreement or unilaterally - it is worth considering where their energy and motivation would be channeled on the day after the evacuation.
Sharon is offering the settlers new challenges, first and foremost settling the Negev and the Galilee. It is their right of course to live wherever they choose, but one has the sneaking suspicion that Sharon sees them as the pioneers in the struggle against "the Arabs' gaining control of state lands." Sharon should think well before allocating such missions to the West Bank settlers. The result may be reminiscent of the violent reality in the West Bank. In this case, however, the violence may be directed against Israel's Bedouin citizens.
Now the election campaign is on and the candidates are fleeing from complex problems they cannot solve with slogans, such as "the eternal unity of Jerusalem." But the problems will pop up again after the elections, and the next government will be obliged to address them.
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