“The red signs appeared one morning on the barbed wire. ‘Mortal danger; military zone,’ they read. ‘Any person who passes or damages the fence endangers his life.’
“And just like that, Mohammed Habbas was forbidden to reach the acres of fields and olive groves that have been in the family for as long as anyone here can remember. The people of this tiny hillside village were left behind when Israeli military walls chopped away more than half of their property, snaking all the way to the edges of houses to swallow the land but exclude the people.”
Only a few days ago, meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen, the President declared the wall to be “a problem.” But now that Sharon’s in town, the problem but not the Wall seems to have gone away. Although Bush did not explicitly refer to the Wall in his public comments, Sharon didn’t deign to be tactful. He brushed aside Bush’s concerns, declaring his intention to continue building his monument to Israeli arrogance, but not without first patting the President on the back for achieving Israel’s strategic objectives in the region. The Americans, he enthused, had not only invaded Iraq, and taken out a longstanding thorn in Israel’s side, but also have recently resumed their threats against Iran and Syria. The Israeli Prime Minister then expressed his gratitude by telling Bush, in front of the whole world, that the “fence” (as the Israelis insist on calling it) is the President’s problem:
“We had a useful talk today, where we examined ways to advance the peace process between us and our Palestinian neighbors. In this context, a number of issues came up: the security fence which we are forced to construct in order to defend our citizens against terror activities
“The security fence will continue to be built with every effort to minimize their infringement on the daily life of the Palestinian population. Unauthorized outposts will be removed as required in a law-abiding country. We’ll continue to discuss all these issues, both directly and to our bureaus, which maintain close contact.”
In other words: You carried out your part of the bargain, Mr. President and now I’m reneging.
It is typical of the Israelis to characterize the Wall of Separation as a defensive measure, when it is really a land grab of huge proportions, one that will ensure the failure of the American diplomatic initiative. These are, after all, the original authors of the doctrine of preemption, now adopted by the U.S.
The injustice of this electrified, electronicized construction of brick, mortar, reinforced steel and barbed wire, its forbidding guard-towers festooned with weaponry, is clearly visible. It is meant to memorialize the conquest of the land, a visible insult to a conquered people, an architectural provocation.
Perhaps the President made a moral appeal to Sharon, but it was bound to fall on deaf ears: we are talking about the Prime Minister of a country where extra-judicial executions, routinely carried out by the Israeli “Defense” Force (IDF), are officially deemed “focused prevention” or “pinpoint preventive operations.” Sharon’s helicopter gun-ships paid for by you, dear American taxpayers shoot down children barely into their teens as a matter of course. Palestinian homes are regularly demolished, often with the inhabitants still inside. “Settlements” spring up close to Palestinian communities, outposts of an organized terror campaign designed to “persuade” non-Israelis to leave. Israeli aggression is relentless, and Sharon, unlike the President of the United States, puts his own country and its interests (as he perceives them) first.
Sharon knows that Bush is not about to abandon the Israeli cause: the Prime Minister of Israel can be very useful to the Republicans in what promises to be a close election, just as he has been in the past.
Sharon, for his part, has his own political considerations on the home front. In return for conceding the existence of a Palestinian state albeit one with no army, no foreign policy, and no guarantee that it will not be re-annexed tomorrow Sharon must appease the most radical elements among his supporters, who openly call for a “wall of separation” to be created via the expulsion of all Arabs (including those who hold Israeli citizenship). They will now be handed a conveniently snappy slogan: Put them on the other side of the Wall!
The details of the Wall’s construction, and its progress so far, reflect the lunge-and-grab policy of the Israelis, which is focused on building the vision of a “Greater Israel” at the core of the ruling Likud party’s ideology. The Times reports:
“ [T]he wall’s path has shifted east to consume swaths of the West Bank as one Jewish settlement after another demanded to be included on the side of the fence that is closer to Israel. Palestinians, Israelis and international peace mediators all fear the fence will harden into a border. The wall’s final route is a mystery, even to the Israeli lawmakers who were pressured last week by Sharon to set aside an extra $170.5 million for it.”
The final route of the Wall is open-ended, just like the military ambitions of its builders. They will push, and push, and push until they get what they want, without giving an inch except under extreme duress the sort of pressure that our President seems incapable of applying. He’s Bush the Conqueror, the Hegemon, the Great Preemptor to the rest of the world, but in the presence of Ariel Sharon, the leader of a tiny Middle Eastern nation that is entirely dependent on American largesse, suddenly he’s George the Meek, George the Mild, deferential to a fault.
What’s up with that?
Faced with a similar architectural monstrosity, Ronald Reagan for all his faults did not hesitate to say what needed to be said:
“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!”
I can hear the amen corner now: the Wall of Separation is meant to keep terrorists out, not to keep people in. There is no similarity. But isn’t there? The Wall is meant to cut off all contact between ordinary people on both sides, which is precisely what the East German commissars sought to accomplish. The Commies knew that the most powerful weapons in the Western arsenal were the economic and social links which invariably bind communities in close proximity. So they quite logically and murderously sought to isolate their subjects from such subversive influences, thus ensuring their Marxist purity.
It didn’t work, and neither will the Israeli version. Markets conquer all: they leap over walls, over oceans, to create the most complex, interconnected, international division of labor possible, given the limitations of present technology. In a larger sense, the issue of the Wall illustrates the central conundrum of Israel’s predicament. The Jewish state cannot continue to exist as an isolated Sparta, bristling with weaponry and little else. Israel is so completely dependent on the United States that it must continually conduct a major overseas effort to sway international opinion and especially American public opinion to ensure its survival from year to year. Hobbled by socialism crippled by it the Israeli economy is in a shambles, and there are other, more intractable problems.
No wall, no matter how many American tax dollars are lavished on it, is going to keep out determined terrorists, who have a developing base of support among Israeli Arabs. The argument could be made, from a security standpoint, that the Wall will function as a lightning rod for terrorists, a provocation in stone and steel. That, I fear, is the intent of its architects.
If the Arab birth rate continues to outpace that of the Israelis, the Jewish state will be no more. That is the real reason for the Wall. The Likud government is replicating the Jewish ghettos of Eastern Europe, only this time they will be given the best land, not the worst, and they will conduct the pogroms, thank you, if that is what is deemed necessary to ensure Israel’s survival.
In empowering the Israeli state to carry out this program, by subsidizing and supporting what amounts to a policy of state terrorism, the President of the United States is pursuing the interests of a foreign nation over and above his own. The U.S., engaged in a deadly war with the terrorists of Al Qaeda, has nothing to gain from such an arrangement, and everything to lose. Why, then, does our unconditional support to Israel continue? Why does the President of the most powerful nation on earth allow himself to be insulted, in public, by this horrendous toad of a man?
As long as we continue to kowtow before the builders of this viciously vindictive Wall, and become complicit in Sharon’s crimes, we won’t need a “terrorism futures market” to tell us what’s in store. In that case, the prospects for peace in the U.S., as well as in the Middle East are near to nil.