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Last update - 08:18 01/05/2006

Lieberman is right

By Akiva Eldar

It is a pity that the only politician who dares to shout in public that the king is naked is a racist bully. It is a pity that MK Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) is the one who has pointed out the contradiction between the coalition guidelines, which promise to "shape the permanent borders of the state of Israel," and the unilateral "convergence plan." Even before the government has been sworn in, it turns out that even the great American friend does not intend to recognize a border that Israel decides without negotiations and without the agreement of the Palestinian side. Lieberman also knows that there is not a Palestinian on the planet who would agree to the border that Israel is prepared to suggest.

What legal value is there to a fence that is going up without a permit, in a place that is not registered to the criminal and that does not stand a chance of being recognized as his property? How many embassies have relocated to Jerusalem since the unilateral annexation of the eastern part of the city? How many of them have left it since the passage of the Jerusalem Law? How many countries have changed their attitude toward the Syrian Golan Heights in the wake of the application of Israeli law? In the absence of a diplomatic agreement, which of them will contribute to the operation of handing Jewish settlements in the West Bank over to Hamas and returning the settlers to Israel - the cost of which is estimated at NIS 100 billion?

Not only does "shaping the permanent borders" without international legitimization not contribute a thing to Israel's interests, but the new border is liable to knock the ground out from under international recognition of the borders of June 4, 1967, which are anchored in United Nations Security Council Resolution 242. That resolution, of November 22, 1967, talks, inter alia, of the right of all of the countries involved in the conflict to live in peace "within secure and recognized boundaries." Moreover, the absence of UN recognition of the annexation to Israel of thousands of dunams in the West Bank and of walls that perpetuate the annexation of East Jerusalem, including sites that are holy to Islam and Christianity, will depict Israel as the violent side. Violence, as everyone knows, leads to violence, and thus the new borders will be less recognized than the Green Line, and also less secure.

A unilateral exit from 90 percent of the West Bank, or even 99 percent, will not save Israel from legal responsibility toward the area's Palestinian inhabitants. According to legal opinions, including one from an expert at the Justice Ministry, even the complete removal of any Israeli military and civilian presence from the Gaza Strip has not totally released Israel from its formal obligations toward Gaza's inhabitants. This would be all the more true if the case involved only a partial evacuation of settlements and a continued military presence on the ground. The international community does not intend to take over Israel's responsibility for the places it evacuates, and after the disengagement, even the United States stopped giving the Palestinians the aid that was intended to advance the peace process, may it rest in peace.

There is only one element that will welcome a unilateral withdrawal in the West Bank and will make political capital of it - the Hamas government. All of the secular, pragmatic Arab regimes are following in horror the establishment of the first Muslim Brotherhood state in the Middle East. And only in Israel are they glad that the non-partner has gone and the extra large non-partner has come. At long last, there is no one to give territories in return for peace, so it is possible to leave them without a peace agreement. However, the huge number of warnings about planned terror attacks testifies that the withdrawal from Gaza without an agreement has not contributed to security. The security establishment is even preparing for a renewed invasion of areas of the Gaza Strip.

What leads anyone to assume that a withdrawal from the West Bank without an agreement will in fact lead to a lowering of the flames and will not culminate in the return of Israeli forces to the casbah in Nablus? Even someone who assumes that there is no chance of a permanent status agreement must aspire to a phased withdrawal that would be coordinated with Palestinian elements that support a two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 lines, with agreed-upon modifications. Only a withdrawal in a format of this sort will be acceptable to the international community and will be able to win economic aid and security backing from it. The permanent borders must wait for better days, when every child will understand that recognized borders are not something one determines alone. And neither are secure borders.

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