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The Demarcation Line – Avoiding Civil Strife in Israel

08 May 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Much noise is being made about Israel’s security fence in western Samaria (northern West Bank) and its demarcation line, cutting through Palestinian agricultural areas and taking in as many Jewish developments as possible while leaving the Arab villages on the eastern side of the line.  By now most are in agreement of the line’s political significance as an Israeli unilateral move to establish a new border east of the 1949 Armistice Lines (1967 non-recognized boundary).

Critics say this violates Palestinian rights and will not bring peace.  Palestinians who have lost lands must be reimbursed and there are discussions over the security arrangements necessary to allow Arab farmers to cross from the eastern side of the fence to the west in order to continue working their lands.  No doubt solutions for individual Palestinians can and must be found.  Israel sees this as a minor issue.

But the question remains, why not draw the line on the old 1967 line?  This would signal what Israel sees as a permanent status agreement, meaning over 200,000 Jews living in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) would have to leave, either voluntarily or forcibly and this would shred the Israeli social fabric.  Former prime minister Ehud Barak was taking such an action when he negotiated at Camp David 2000 and even more so when he sent his emissaries to Taba in January, 2001.  Enormous risks were at stake for a full peace agreement and the eternal end of all hostilities as he was willing to take a chance on severely damaging the social cohesiveness among Israel’s Jewish population (especially between Left and Right), all in the name of peace, a concept and implementation of a ‘new dawn’ meant to out weigh everything else.

It failed.  Palestinian Authority chairman Yasir Arafat continued his strategy of the complete destruction of the state of Israel and continues to enjoy wide ranging support among the Palestinian populace according to Palestinian public opinion polls.  His PM Abu Mazen who favors a two state solution and demands the return of all territories captured by Israel in 1967 (including those western Samarian areas between the 1967 line and the new demarcation line) only has a 2% approval rating.   

The new line contains certain tactical advantages over the old one since it is in the hill region and the Palestinians lose some of the height advantage they had over the coastal plain.  But this is not the issue.  Simply put, Israel is not willing to risk social disintegration for a phantom peace process.  More peripheral and isolated settlements not in the national consensus can be removed with a minimum of negative impact and PM Sharon may be willing to do this for a long - term interim agreement.

After two and a half years of massive Palestinian terrorism, Jews in Israel will no longer take ‘risks’ for peace but rather are willing to designate a physical demographic separation line to rid themselves of the Palestinians as much as possible.  Peace is seen as an illusion and risking civil strife for its realization is not in the cards.

Reality means separating two peoples by a security fence, its demarcation being determined by where those peoples reside.