Border Now, Peace Later, Education Over

Through the swirling mists that hover over the Israel "political horizon" it is possible to make out four concepts that have become consecrated into the commandments of national agreement as laid down by the Sharon government.

Through the swirling mists that hover over the Israel "political horizon" it is possible to make out, albeit with no little squinting, four pillars that have remained standing throughout the storm, concepts that have become consecrated into four commandments of national agreement as laid down by the Sharon government. These are:

(1) There will never be negotiations under fire.

(2) We will never return to the proposals put forward at Camp David (Ehud Barak, who made the proposals, also led the obsessive rush to shred and burn his own concessions.)

(3) Arafat's mission in life is to eradicate terrorism and effectively maintain our security (it's interesting that the right wing, in its typical raging fury, continues to adhere to this article of the despised Oslo agreements.)

(4) No fence shall be built along the "seam line" because that would amount to a unilateral withdrawal, require the dismantling of settlements, be a capitulation to violence, and become an a priori acceptance of an eventual hostile terrorist state next door.

These apparently disparate four commandments have one common denominator - all of them rest on an essentially pedagogic basic assumption. Indeed most of the Israeli political spectrum views the entire "political process" as a kind of educational process in which the Palestinians and their leaders have to become mature, come to their senses, learn lessons - "be human beings" but as we perceive that concept. In short, they must grow up and become different.

On top of this, we, the Israelis, have the role of the teachers, inspectors and dispensers of grades. If the pupil stops shooting and blowing himself up like a nut case, we will talk to him. If the apprentice missed an opportunity to accept our advice, he will now get a boot in the ass for punishment. If the new recruit has failed to implement his mission to fight terrorism, preserve the security of the camp, shave his whiskers and stop being so erratic and elusive, we will take away his shoelaces and throw him into solitary confinement.

And as for a border - don't make us laugh. The bastard wants a border? Let him first do his lessons, and even after that, let him apply to Avigdor Lieberman and Benny Elon.

It goes almost without saying that this pedagogical task has proved itself to be innately Sisyphean and has caused us only anguish and disappointment. To our eternally recurring amazement and astonishment, not only have the Palestinians and their leaders not changed over the years, they have actually become more and more what they actually are, and even more themselves than they were in the days of 1948, in 1929, or in the "events" of 1936-1939.

Hence the rage directed against Arafat, who is perceived as the highly authentic incarnation of everything that has been the bane and scourge of our lives for a hundred years - mystery, flightiness, wildness, lying, uninhibited lack of all restraint, and above all, the infuriating refusal to soften.

All those "Palestinian" qualities we have tried in vain to change in a thousand ways, on both the right and the left, in negotiations and in war, with the stick and with the carrot, by conciliation and ultimatum, by gestures and redeployments and with an endless number of stifling encirclements and humiliations.

In the light of the devastating failure of this educational process, maybe the time has come to reexamine all the concepts that rest on the abortive "taming of the shrew" and try a completely new approach - despair of pedagogical efforts. Breaking contact. Sloughing off our pretensions to change the mentality of Palestinian society and of its leaders. On one hand, "get off their backs" and "get out of their face," and on the other hand, let them cook in their own stew, rather than in our stew.

In other words, perhaps we have to reverse the concept of concepts, the one that accompanied not only the Oslo process but the entire policy in the territories since 1967. Instead of a slow process of peace and conciliation, only at the end of which the border and the barrier will be decided, it would be better to start with the border fence now and only afterward to deal, for good or for ill, with every neighbor who will take his place behind it. The dovish slogans may therefore have to be updated - instead of "Peace Now, border later," let it be "Border Now, peace later."

Naturally, the overturning of such a deeply rooted concept will generate almost instinctive opposition from both the left and the right. How is it possible to demarcate a border without the consent of the other side? And what if Hamas and Islamic Jihad take over the terrorist state that will come into being on the other side of the border? And, the question of questions (of which all the others are only the alibi) - what about the settlements?

These serious dilemmas have nourished the conceptions that we continue to harbor despite their blatant collapse, one after the other. And do we have security now? Have our lives not become hell? Isn't it a fact that the only places in which we have quiet are those where we have established, even unilaterally, a fence and a clear-cut barrier? Is there even one day of security in the non-border regions?

Nevertheless, we continue obsessively, even at the price of our lives - literally, the full price of our very lives - to continue resisting the idea of fortifying ourselves behind a border in the territory of the Land of Israel. We will not have a barrier that will cut off the gangrenous "occupation" which is already eating away our very flesh, not even a plain old fence that will protect the heart of the country, which is a sieve for every terrorist.

A border would force the Palestinians, even under the most extreme leadership, to mature into a state, one that would be subject to international constraints on its behavior and international rules of punishment, which are becoming ever more stringent. That's a rationale that may even persuade those among us who find it difficult to let go of the Palestinians and the never-ending process of "educating" them.