The State Sharon Is Talking About
by Amira Hass
May 29, 2003
Talk and declarations have more influence than facts and actions on the ground. This can be seen once again in the contradictory reactions - furious or welcoming - to the government's approval of the road map and to the fire-breathing statements by Ariel Sharon that it's wrong to rule over 3.5 million Palestinians, that occupation is not good, that there's no alternative but to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state.
The facts on the ground, which don't create as strong an impression as the rhetoric, are established every day. The facts are called the separation fence and security fences around settlements, security roads and bypass roads that continue to cut off the Palestinian villages from each other and the villages from their land, and construction in the settlements that were already vastly expanded during the Oslo era to the point where they constitute about half the total area of the West Bank.
These facts are determining - and will continue to determine - the area where the road map will be applied, the area where the entity known as the "Palestinian state" will be established. A visit to the area, where the Public Works Commission, the Defense Ministry, Housing Ministry and the IDF bulldozers are busy at work, makes it possible to see why it's easy for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to talk about a "Palestinian state."
A consulting team from the Palestinian negotiations department has drawn up a future map, based on these facts on the ground. The team will give it to the ambassadors and envoys who are so enthusiastic about Sharon's statements.
According to the facts on the ground, the "state" will apparently be comprised of three enclaves cut off from one another inside the West Bank - in addition to the Gazan enclave, and with no guarantee the settlements inside the enclave will be dismantled. The "separation fence" has been described as "temporary," but it is a wall with hefty fortifications taking up a lot of land, and it has already scarred the Tul Karm-Qalqiliyah area, the most prosperous Palestinian farmland, thus sabotaging one of the cornerstones of Palestinian economic security.
The massive construction in Jerusalem and its environs, from Bethlehem to Ramallah, and the Dead Sea to Modi'in, has already ruled out any Palestinian urban, industrial or cultural development worthy of the name in the area of East Jerusalem. The southern enclave of the West Bank, from Hebron to Bethlehem, will be cut off from the central enclave of the Ramallah area by an ocean of manicured Israeli settlements, tunnel roads and highways. The northern enclave, from Jenin to Nablus, will be cut off from the center by the massive settlement bloc of Ariel-Eli-Shiloh.
Presumably Sharon's intentions for an eastern separation fence will also come into being - after all, his talk about a state is more persuasive to the American administration than the land Israel continues to effectively expropriate from the Palestinians. The Jordan Valley will remain outside the Palestinian state, and between it and the divided Palestinian "state" there will be settlements with tiny populations and enormous land reserves, like Itamar, Nokdim and Tekoah, as well as huge settlements like Ma'aleh Adumim.
Last Friday, Yedioth Ahronoth's weekend magazine published a useful report for all those who never go to the territories, detailing the long-term significance of the separation fence, accompanied by a map that bears a striking resemblance to the map prepared by the Palestinians.
There have already been many reports about how tens of thousands of villagers have been cut off from their lands, how some villages have been imprisoned between the two sides of the "fence," and how Qalqiliyah has been cut off entirely. There have also been reports about how the separation fence is constantly being moved eastward, by settler demand. But the Yedioth reporter, Meron Rapaport, went a step further, asking key people in the settlements about those facts.
According to the quotes from Ariel Mayor Ron Nahman, he has already seen the map of Palestinian enclaves being created by the fence: "That's the same map I've seen every time I've visited Arik [Sharon] since 1978. He told me he's been thinking about it since 1973."
A settler from Einav, referring to himself as "very right-wing," regards the fence as a disaster: "It's an economic death sentence for the Palestinians," Shmil Eldad told Rapaport. "There are people here who want to make a living and it's creating more hatred," he added.
But Moshe Immanuel from Salit justifies the fence: "The Palestinians lost in 1948 and 1967 and they will lose this time, too ... That's what happens, those who lose in war, lose."
David Levy, head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, knows the fence will keep the area "inside," meaning inside Israel. He says he knows, on the basis of meetings with Sharon and maps Sharon has shown him.
The Palestinians are exhausted by the unequal struggle with Israel, which is a world-class military power. Maybe that's why, lacking any alternative, they might decide to accept the Bantustan state that is meant to absorb hundreds of thousands of refugees. The "closure camps" will nurture poverty and economic distress, without any room for development. Whether their children agree to continue living in "peace" in suffocating enclaves, is another question entirely.
Amira Hass is an award-winning Israeli journalist who lives in Ramalla in the occupied West Bank. She is author of Drinking the Sea At Gaza: Days and Nights In A Land Under Siege (Owl Books, 2000). She writes for the Israeli daily Ha’artez, where this article first appeared (http://www.haaretz.com/).