Friday, August 08, 2003

It's sometimes entertaining to watch a columnist so adroitly miss the point. To this end, I present to you Charles Krauthammer on the Israeli fence:

The State Department is proposing that the United States play hardball with Israel -- reducing badly needed loan guarantees -- if it proceeds with the barrier it is erecting between Israeli and Palestinian populations. With this, the State Department joins the latest Palestinian propaganda ploy -- inverting cause and effect, and making the fence the issue, rather than the terrorism that made the fence necessary.

The Israelis are not happy with the fence. They love the land as much as the Palestinians, and scarring it with any barrier is so painful to Israelis that for years they resisted the idea. The reason they finally decided to build it is that they could no longer in good conscience refrain from taking the one step that could prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from sneaking into Israel to blow up innocents.
Krauthammer goes on to say that there's nothing in the "road map" about the fence, and that it's necessary to prevent Palestinian militants/terrorists from attacking Israeli civilians. All fine and good, but what stunning is that he completely misses the real fear about the fence... that the Israelis "love the land" so much that they're attempting to slowly annex it!

The whole reason that the fence is creating so much anxiety is because of the long-standing Palestinian perception that the settlement process is an attempt to slowly crowd them out of "Judea and Samaria". This is one of the biggest obstacles to peace; the Palestinians (rightly or wrongly) believe that if they do not wage war on the Israelis, the Israelis will simply (and peacefully) build settlement after settlement. This process doesn't even require that the Israelis do it purposefully; all they need to do is allow their more extremist factions the lattitude to do what they wish by either benign neglect or waffling on the issue. Considering the divisive Israeli political system, this isn't exactly a difficult task, and as long as the belief exists that the West Bank is ordained to the Jews by God, there will be little traction for the idea of removing the settlements. They will simply multiply until they're numerous enough that the argument that the Palestinians should simply be sent to Jordan becomes an inevitability.

(This rational argument in favor of militancy is rarely discussed in the blogosphere, by the by; it certainly doesn't factor into the "Palestinians are animals" argument made by those ironically named "anti-idiotarians".)

Now, this isn't a justification for terrorism, because terrorism rarely acheives its goals; the paranoia and anger only intensifies the desire to "stay the course". What this situation requires is a hard border between the two countries, and reassurement of the Palestinians that this sort of "creeping eviction" will not take place. This is precisely why the fence's location is a bad idea- there is the perception that this fence around the settlements will become a de-facto border. The Palestinians (and their supporters) will believe that if the Israelis succeed in moving the border once, they'll do it again, and that the fence is proof that the Israelis have absolutely no intention of removing the settlements and, thus, are tacit supporters of the settlements.

The ironic and tragic part is that this will only increase the power of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad and the like, because they'll be able to more easily convince ordinary Palestinians that extremism and violence are the only way to fight back, because peace will mean slow national oblivion. This means that the PA will be unable to act against them, as the attempt will mean civil war and, inevitably, oblivion for the PA.

The State department knows this, the Bush Administration almost certainly knows this, and even the Israelis likely know this, so I find it extraordinarily hard to believe that Mr. Krauthammer somehow doesn't.

(Krauthammer addresses the idea of civil war, but only as Abbas' "excuse" for violating the road map plan... that Abbas may have a point is utterly ignored.)

The only answer, then, is that he doesn't care. Which is fine. He's entitled to that opinion. It doesn't mean, however, that we have to listen to him, or anybody else that advocates acts that feed Palestinian fears and then rails against the reaction to those fears.

No, terrorism is not acceptable, and should not be condoned. The first step to proving that is not simply to kill terrorists, but to ensure that those that the terrorists are supposedly "fighting for" understand that they don't need them. The best way to do that with the Palestinians is to convince them that peace will not bring slow oblivion. To that end, the fence is a serious step backwards.

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