No life without borders

The status quo only allows for two possibilities, both of them bad: a binational state, and being accused of apartheid. Borders would alter the situation entirely.

June 10, 2014 22:13
3 minute read.
Border fence between Israel, Egypt

Border fence with Egypt 370. (photo credit: GPO)


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A lecture I once heard at the Faculty of Agriculture at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot dealt with the question, “What is a life form?” One definition referred to the presence of a distinction between the organism and its environment; our body temperature is not the same as the temperature of the air around us; fish blood is not briny like the sea in which the creature swims; even the water in an amoeba differs from the water in its puddle. Nothing can be considered a living organism without a dividing line, without a border between itself and its surroundings.

A state also needs borders. A nation desiring sustainable existence has to distinguish itself from its surroundings, to mark its borders and define itself and its neighbors, to be able to say, “These are my borders and within them I will live as I choose.” A fish will not survive if its body is invaded by seawater, and a nation will not survive if it is inundated by members of another nation.

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Israel is no exception. More than anyone else, it is those who are motivated by strong feelings of nationalism who need to understand this and take appropriate action. Our goal should be to have sovereignty over as much territory as possible, and over as few people who do not belong to our nation as possible. But there have to be borders.

In Jerusalem, for example, we must maintain control over the Old City and adjacent neighborhoods, but we can divest ourselves of all the surrounding villages that have been annexed to the city. And we have to do it soon. The thousands of Palestinians that have been added to Jerusalem are preventing it from being what we want it to be. And I repeat: the first people who should be crying out for such action are those who regard themselves as the keepers of the city walls.

We need a border in the West Bank as well. If we are unable to reach an agreement on the issue, we will have to make the decision ourselves. We can hold back a little extra in order to have something to concede when the time comes that we can negotiate a settlement. In the meantime, we can split the territory up in a way that will enable a Palestinian to go from Jenin to Hebron without seeing a single Israeli soldier. The principle remains the same: a nation is a living organism that must be clearly distinguished from its surroundings.

You can not live in a house without walls and then whine that there is nothing to lean on, nothing to protect you from the cold. A submarine with holes in the hull is just a pile of steel at the bottom of the ocean. A refrigerator without a door is no more than a cupboard, and a state without borders is like a bus terminal. What are our borders? Areas A, B, C? Who knows what those mean and can draw them on a map? The status quo only allows for two possibilities, both of them bad: a binational state, and being accused of apartheid. Borders would alter the situation entirely.

To return to the subject of biology, there is one major difference between countries and human beings: when it comes to countries, size doesn’t necessarily matter. Luxemburg, Singapore, Lichtenstein and Andorra are all proof that a small nation can prosper. If the Palestinians would only take these examples to heart, as far as I am concerned they can establish a principality on their territory if they want to. In fact, with the right attitude, Ramallah could be the next Monte Carlo.

Translated from Hebrew by Sara Kitai.

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