Mas'ha - in the olive grove a few metres from the tents set up by the villagers of Mas'ha, together with Israeli and international peace activists, three bulldozers are preparing the ground for the "Separation Wall." The work on the wall continues now from early morning to late evening. Sharon talks about the road map for peace while creating "facts on the ground."
The whole Israeli public supports the Separation Wall. It has no idea what it is supporting. It has to be said unequivocally: this wall has nothing to do with security, but the public believes that at long last something is being done! And indeed, the idea looks quite simple: a Palestinian who wants to blow himself up in Israel has to first cross the pre-1967 border, the so-called Green Line. If a wall or fence is built along the Green Line, the terrorists will not be able to come. No more attacks, no more suicide bombers.
But logic says that if this were indeed a security wall it would be built directly along the Green Line. All Israelis (except the Jewish settlers) would be on one side of it (the western one) and all the Palestinians on the other. But in reality, except for short sections the wall is being built neither on the Green Line nor in a straight line. On the contrary, it meanders like a river, twisting and turning, approaching the Green Line and then receding.
Not by accident. The bed of a river is dictated by nature. The water has to obey gravity. But the wall's design has no connection with nature. The bulldozers are quite indifferent to nature; they cut through it remorselessly. What, then, determines this plan? Stand near the wall and the answer is clearly visible. The sole consideration that dictates its path is the settlements. The wall twists like a snake according to a simple principle: most of the settlements must remain on the western side of the wall, i.e., eventually to be absorbed into Israel.
Standing on a hill that will be crossed by the wall, I saw Elkana, a large settlement down below on the western side. On the eastern side, only a few dozen metres away, sits the Palestinian village of Mas'ha. The village itself stands on the eastern side, but 98 per cent of its lands lie on the western side. The wall will cut the village off from its olive groves and fields that stretch up to the Green Line some 7 kilometres away.
Mas'ha was once a blooming village. It has a big industrial zone, now completely deserted. At the beginning of the intifada the Israeli army blocked the main road with piles of earth and rocks. "First they came to destroy our livelihood," village chief Anwar Amar says bitterly. "Now they come again to take away our land."
Indeed, the foul smell of "transfer" hovers over the wall. Its location leaves some Palestinian villages on the western side, trapped between the wall and the Green Line. The inhabitants will not be able to move, to find a livelihood, to breathe. Other villages like Mas'ha will remain on the eastern side of the wall, but their land, on which their livelihood depends, will be on the western side. There are places like the town of Kalkiliya that will be almost completely surrounded by a loop of the wall, leaving only a small opening to the West Bank.
Without a doubt, one of the purposes of the wall is to make the lives of the inhabitants hell in order to convince them by and by to go away. It's a kind of "creeping transfer." Just as the bulldozer pushes rocks and lumps of earth before it, so the occupation pushes before it the Palestinian population - always eastward, always out.
Sharon is now also planning the "Eastern Wall" that will cut off the West Bank from the Jordan valley. When it is finished, the whole West Bank will become an island surrounded by Israeli territory, cut off on all sides. Also, the southern West Bank (Hebron and Bethlehem) will be cut off from the northern West Bank (Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin), which will also be divided into several enclaves.
This is what Sharon has in mind when he speaks about a "Palestinian state." It will consist of several enclaves, each surrounded by Israeli territory; it certainly will not bring peace.
But this wall also has a deeper meaning. It's no accident that the plan is hugely popular in Israel. When the Jews began to congregate in ghettos, before this was decreed from the outside, they surrounded themselves with a wall to separate them from a hostile environment. Wall and separation as guarantors of security are deeply imprinted in the Jewish collective unconscious.
But we, the new Hebrew society in this country, did not want to be a new Jewish ghetto. We sought not separation but the opposite - to be open to the region. This evil wall is not only an instrument for dispossessing the Palestinians, an instrument of terrorism masquerading as a defence against terrorism. It is most of all an obstacle facing Israel, a wall blocking our way to a future of peace, security and prosperity.
Israeli analyst Uri Avnery has served three terms in the Knesset and is a leading member of the peace group Gush Shalom.