Forty Years of Ambiguity

In order to protect ourselves from the Palestinians, for whom the occupation is not at all ambiguous, we invent an ambiguous policy of assassinations, blockades and shootings.

The year 2007 will mark 40 years since the occupation of the West Bank, or 40 years since the liberation of Judea and Samaria. Next year, we will celebrate Jerusalem Day, the unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem, or 40 years since the reunification of the capital.

Even regarding its name and title there is no agreement, neither among ourselves, nor with our neighbors or the international community. What is important is that we already have a director for the birthday celebrations of the most ambiguous creature to have entered this world in recent generations.

It is possible to find a number of advantages in Israel's policy of nuclear ambiguity. Henry Kissinger made a career on "constructive ambiguity" as a method for furthering diplomatic efforts. It is hard to think of a more destructive phenomenon than the ambiguous approach of the Israeli establishment to issues related to the occupied/liberated/administered territories.

Shortly after the Six-Day War, then-labor minister Yigal Allon was asked in the Knesset to respond about the possibility of replacing the armistice lines (the Green Line) from official maps with cease-fire lines. "While these lines do not constitute agreed and recognized political borders," Along explained, "from the point of view of international law, and from a practical political stance, the cease-fire lines are the sole demarcation lines that exist between Israel and its neighbors." In other words, Israeli control over the territories is not agreed and recognized, but that is what we have, and that is what we will win with.

The legal-formalistic ambiguity has been supplied since November 1967 by the difference in the English version of the UN Security Council resolution, which called for the Israeli withdrawal from "territories occupied in the recent conflict," and the French version, which calls for a withdrawal from "the territories." What to do with the Palestinian population that insists on sticking to its land and threatens to spoil the demographic balance? Israeli ambiguity found a creative solution to this. The application of Israeli law and administration in select areas - Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

In slogans, Jerusalem is a unified city. In practice, the separation fence cuts off thousands of Palestinians residing inside the municipal borders of Jerusalem. The discriminatory policy of ministries and the municipality illustrates the ambiguity between the ethos of the city's unification and its Judaization. Israelis are perfectly fine with this ambiguity. Who cares whether this is inconvenient for the Palestinians? Similarly with regard to the Gaza Strip: Israel has disengaged from inside the territory, but continues to control it from beyond. In a situation in which the recognized government in the Gaza Strip is not sovereign, there is ambiguity whether Israel is completely relieved from responsibility for the fate of the residents in this miserable region.

In the West Bank, the parts that official annexation has skipped over, the military commander is sovereign, and, according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israeli citizens should not be settled there. The ambiguous term "administered lands" was invented, "state lands" is pulled out of Ottoman law, and we declare that "everything is up for negotiation." Everything, except the "settlement blocs," of course, whose borders (how could it be otherwise) are ambiguous and are unacceptable to the other side. To enable expansion of the settlements, contrary to international promises, we invent the excuse of having to meet the needs of "natural growth" whose scale is ambiguous.

And, in order to protect ourselves from the Palestinians, for whom the occupation is not at all ambiguous, we invent an ambiguous policy of assassinations, blockades and shootings. This ambiguity is eating away at every good part of the army, politics and all branches of the establishment. Some of the basic court rulings relating to the occupation/liberation of the West Bank/Judea and Samaria, suggest that ambiguity affliction has also reached the Supreme Court.

Following such a long and fervent addiction to the drug of ambiguity, it is no surprise that the leadership and public are confused by challenges like the Arab League resolution of March 2002, which is based on a very clear principle: land for peace. It is much more convenient for them to have a road map without lines and celebrations of "unification" with empty slogans.