Friday, July 23, 2004

Terrific article by Yossi Klein Halevi on the ICJ opinion.  Some excerpts (emphases added):
...The real meaning of the court's decision, then, is to delegitimize not Israel's right to self-defense but its right to claim any territory, even for self-defense, over the Green Line.

The danger of that decision is to create the legal groundwork for an imposed solution that would force Israel back to the 1967 borders, even without a peace agreement - Yasser Arafat's dream scenario.

And so the war Israel needs to fight now isn't so much over the decision itself but its premise: that all land beyond the 1967 border belongs by right to Palestine.


In determining that Israel has no legitimate claim to any territory it won in 1967, including, presumably, Jewish neighborhoods built in east Jerusalem, the court has, in effect, overturned UN resolution 242, the basis of the land for peace formula, which doesn't refer to Israel's return of "the territories" but merely "territories."


IN DETERMINING the route of the fence, Israel needs to be guided by four considerations. The first is security. If topography, say, dictates that the fence be built on a hill rather than in a valley, then that is the army's decision. Security is also the logic for walling off Jerusalem and preventing the city from being "shared" with - and destroyed by - an armed Palestinian authority.

The second consideration is demography: ensuring there are as few Palestinians as possible on our side of the fence.

The third is also demography-related: ensuring as many settlers as possible on our side of the fence. In the absence of a peace agreement, only isolated settlements caught on the Palestinian side of the fence should be uprooted.

The fourth is psychological: preventing the Palestinians from perceiving our withdrawal as a victory for terrorism. In losing part of the West Bank, the Palestinians and the Arab world generally will understand that terrorism has a price.

If those considerations are followed, about 10 percent of the West Bank will be incorporated into Israel by the fence.

Until Ehud Barak proposed ceding 92% of the territories at Camp David and then 96% at Taba, most observers took for granted that Israel wouldn't return to the 1967 borders. One plan popular on the Israeli Left envisioned a Palestinian state on only 89% of the territories. Tom Friedman was even less generous. Before Camp David, he wrote a column called "75 for 75" - by which he meant that 75% of Israelis would support withdrawal from 75% of the territories. At the time, Friedman considered that formulation a reasonable basis for ending the conflict.

Two competing views of the 1967 borders have now emerged within the international community. Along with the Hague decision is the American position, formulated by President Bush and endorsed by Congress (with a few exceptions, such as John Kerry, who didn't show up for the Senate vote). According to the new Bush Doctrine, Israel will not be expected to withdraw to the 1967 borders. And Palestinian refugees will return only to a Palestinian state.

That doctrine undermines the two key elements of the Palestinians' long-term strategy to undermine Israel's viability: first, forcing Israel back to the Green Line, and then overwhelming the Jewish state with refugees - through international pressure on Israel to increase the number of refugees it willingly accepts and through an invisible "return" of Palestinians slipping across the border and settling in Arab Israeli communities, as tens of thousands have already done in recent years.

The fence puts a brake on both those processes. It marks the security line that may well become Israel's political border. And it prevents the infiltration of Palestinian refugees into Israel.

That is the real reason why Palestinian leaders see the fence as a disaster and why they have mobilized their politicized allies on the international court to stop it. And that's precisely why Israel must cling to the fence and its current route.
The point about Thomas Friedman's "evolution"  is interesting because it illustrates how the often monolithic  perspective of the "elites" gets shaped.  If the Palestinians demand something for long enough and violently enough, sympathy and understanding will erupt, and in not too long the press and the European governments will fall into line.

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