Walled in or Walled Out?

"Two states for two peoples"? That vision has been replaced today by a reality of two peoples in two worlds: one is not yet ripe for a state; the other has grown weary of it prematurely.

The doubts expressed of late by British and American statesmen to the effect that "the Palestinian state will not be established in 2005" can generate only bitter laughter, as when one hears an exaggerated understatement: A Palestinian state? An actual state? Next year already? In the chaotic realm of the Palestinian Authority, where it's doubtful that one can establish a chicken coop safely?

Even the most ardent supporters of the Palestinians - from the UN's Terje Roed Larsen to newspaper columnists in the Western world - are by now asking themselves about how ready they are to establish a state entailing sovereignty and responsibility for its fate, not to mention democracy. Indeed, beyond Israel's assaults on that sovereignty, and more especially in light of the missing of every opportunity that has, despite everything, been given the Palestinians to establish "a state in the making" - one that will attest, even by the merest hint, to the ability and desire to create a law-abiding, peace-loving political framework - it is really not out of place to put to the Palestinians the blunt classic question of Flatto-Sharon: What have you done for state? Apart from the culture of the shaheeds and terrorism, what have you built? What minimal foundations have you laid for a state culture? What have you done with all the money that was injected for that purpose?

At the same time, our anti-Oslo architects, who did all in their power to demolish the few signs of Palestinian sovereignty and to snip off the buds of normalization, have no cause to rub their hands in glee in light of the anarchy, or to rejoice that "there's no one to talk to." In the first place, because of their part in this mess, and second, because the "there's no one to talk to" argument can just as easily be directed against them. And besides, do we have the right to observe the Palestinian chaos from some lofty perch? Especially when it appears that, along with the ruin of the vision of Palestinian normalization, the vision of our normalization is also being shattered. Somehow, like Siamese twins who died in the attempt to separate them, it looks as though the crash of the vision of coexistence alongside a Palestinian entity has also vitiated Israel's status as a progressive country, an honorable society among the nations of the world.

So we can put the question of "what have you done for state" to the Israeli government, too, with the emphasis on "state." Sharon, Mofaz & Co. made efforts on behalf of the security of the Jewish community in the Land of Israel and improvised solutions for the good of the "Yishuv" in the period of the "events" in our time. But did they strengthen, or perhaps mortally weaken, the status, image and self-identity of Israel as a state?

Perhaps it's from wishful thinking, perhaps it's from guessing at Sharon's indeterminate wishes - but there are some who view the "disengagement" as some sort of effort to "return to ourselves," to gather within our borders and thereby entrench our identity anew; this on the basis of the somewhat nostalgic assumption that returning to the Green Line is necessarily the same as returning to the womb of "normal Israeliness," which desires only to be like every other nation.

The only trouble is that there's no proof or hint of this, not in Sharon's policy, not in his deeds and not in his words. On the contrary: It is precisely Sharon, who is perceived as one of the icons of Israeliness, that is in fact the most authentic purveyor, and the most energetic promoter, of the concept of ghetto existence that comes close to espousing anomaly.

Sharon's "disengagement" is unaccompanied by any positive Israeli vision. Above all it embodies insularity, a desire for communal curling up in the fetal position. It's not by chance that this is accompanied by a defiant turning of our back on the nations of the world, especially Europe, along with incessant harping, relevantly and irrelevantly, on the motif of anti-Semitism and the recollection of the Holocaust. And this together with a rather ghetto-like taking of refuge under the patronage of a single all-merciful feudal lord, in the form of America.

Nor is it by chance that most meetings of the Sharon cabinet are devoted to efforts to unite around fears, warnings and intelligence alerts - but never around hopes, prospects and opportunities. Similarly, the military overreactions stem from a self-perception as victim, which treats every attack, including attacks on soldiers, as a type of pogrom. Even Sharon's awkward call to the Jews of France to flee to the shores of our dubious safe haven can be seen as part of this approach, which is more ethnic-catastrophic than it is national-Zionist.

Israel's regression as a normal law-abiding state into ethnocentric community existence is also visible in the helplessness that is being displayed about the evacuation of settler outposts, or even in bringing Jewish hooligan elements under control. The timing of the "Citizenship Law," which is intended to preserve the community's ethnic purity, is perhaps also not a chance affair. So it's not surprising that the sharpest and most appropriate symbol of this period is The Fence. It was built as a barrier but grew into a kind of vast ghetto wall, and it's not clear whether it's keeping the Palestinians out or us in. Is it isolating terrorism, or isolating us from the rest of the world?

"Two states for two peoples"? That vision has been replaced today by a reality of two peoples in two worlds: one is not yet ripe for a state; the other has grown weary of it prematurely.