Mid-East Realitieswww.middleeast.org


August 23, 2001

MID-EAST REALITIES - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 8/22: Two rather insightful articles follow about how confused and insecure many Israelis have become, even though this often comes across to others as heightened arrogance and self-centeredness. In the first from Ha'aretz some Israelis are hedging their bets and wondering just what the future holds. There is a deep down awareness, not quite conscious for many, that what they are doing to the Palestinians could possibly in the future backfire in an orgy of hatred and recriminations far beyond today's situation. The second article helps explain how confused and in a sense how desperate many of the top Israelis leaders have become -- thus leading to the exploding debate about "separation" with no one quite sure just what to do or how to go about it.

"Separation" is the term now being heard for essentially fencing the Palestinians in and trying to consolidate the apartheid-like structures of today in a more permanent way through force and technology. This isn't "divorce" as some Israelis try to present it for the gullible media, it's rape and imprisonment in the way they propose it. "Divorce" has to be at least a minimally consensual arrangement that in this case would have to include at least a truly independent Palestinian State in all of the occupied territories with Jerusalem also the Palestinian capital and with some kind of reasonable refugee compensation/settlement/return plan. "Unilateral Separation" has nothing to do with consent and justice and agreement, it is the brute imposition by the powerful against the weak attempting to lock-in and justify dispossession and oppression.

Now let's be very clear about this situation. The suffering and cruelty imposed on the Palestinians is immeasurably greater than anything the Israelis have had to deal with. Plus of course the original sin here is quite clearly an Israeli burden, they are the occupiers and aggressors, the Palestinians the occupied and victims. But even so, there's a growing nervousness and desperation the Israelis are facing, however much still below the surface, however much more powerful and dominant they are today.

By Uriya Shavit

Emigration has become the hottest topic of discussion in many Israeli households during the past few months - especially among young people, newly discharged soldiers and university graduates. The race for a foreign passport, a work permit and real estate abroad is at its height. Conversations with Israelis who want to leave:

[Ha'aretz - Internet Edition - 22 August]: The time is 8:30 on a Thursday evening. The place is an office building on Daniel Frisch Street in Tel Aviv. About 30 Israelis have arrived to hear a lecture, accompanied by slides and a video. Avi Idelman, the secretary-general of the Mondragon cooperative association, makes them an offer they have a hard time refusing: Pay the shekel equivalent of $4,500 and join the association, which entitles you to three dunams (three-quarters of an acre) of land in Vanuatu, a group of islands in the southwest Pacific, formerly the New Hebrides.

Some 2,000 families have joined the association to date. Members are recruited by friends who have already joined, and the new members, in turn, get others to sign up. The association has leased 800,000 dunams of land in Vanuatu for a period of 150 years and intends to turn the land into an economic asset for its members.

"We will concentrate on establishing a free-trade zone, and there will be high-tech, finance, advanced agriculture," Idelman tells the audience. "I am betting that the land value will rise. We will help open consulates of Vanuatu around the world. We have an option to purchase 49 percent of Air Vanuatu. We will also focus on tourism. A lot of tourists will come from Israel: Your friends will come to see how we've succeeded, and those who hate you, will come to see how we've failed."

Most of those in the room have never heard of Vanuatu, which was under French-British administration before being granted independence in 1980. Idelman tries to persuade his listeners that the tiny country, population 180,000, is the Promised Land. And it's also almost close to home: no more than a seven-hour flight from Japan, two and a half hours from Australia, and closer to Petah Tikva than, for example, the Pacific island-nation of Kiribati.

Idelman, an affable fellow, wears a white shirt with a high collar, like a priest. He believes wholeheartedly that the dream is practical. He uses a simple method for marketing Vanuatu to Israelis: He explains that it's not Israel.

"There is no poverty and no crime, the sanitation is amazing," he exclaims. "I lived in New York, but the best restaurant I ever ate in is in Vanuatu. Vanuatu is considered the third most important tax haven in the world. It's an island that rose from the water, with no snakes and no scorpions. It doesn't have two nations that are fighting each other."

The video shows Vanuatu in all its splendor: ships sail across white waves in blue water, young women tread tranquilly across a virgin beach, horses with manes flying, cantor nobly between wooden huts. Not all those present are impressed, but some are captivated and ask for more details.

Eran Even Shushan, 30, wants to know how many residences he can build on the plot he will receive. "And another question: If I am a member of the association, and I want my parents or my girlfriend to come to Vanuatu to live and work, is that legal?"

Idelman's replies are good enough for Even Shushan. He works in an industrial plant and has a "totally ordinary salary," but at the end of the evening, he signs a promissory note to pay $4,500 in order to join the association. He is not the only one. Even Shushan says his decision was an obvious one from the beginning.

"My intuition told me to go for it. It's not such a large investment. I have the feeling there is positive energy in Vanuatu. Personally, I am more interested in the economic possibilities than in the possibility of living in Vanuatu. But I'm glad the option exists. An option is a good thing. People with options are a lot happier than people without options."

Overseas options are what a great many Israelis are looking for this summer. The combination of the volatile security situation and the worsening economic slowdown is causing them to look for insurance policies across the sea - passports, work permits, real estate.

This extensive activity takes place, for the most part, far from the spotlight of publicity. More than two decades after Yitzhak Rabin disparaged emigrants as "dropping[s] out of parasites," emigration is still a major taboo in Israeli society. Israelis who are thinking about leaving the country don't usually think out loud.

Fear and helplessness

Who are the people involved? According to a survey conducted for Ha'aretz Magazine by the Mutagim Agency, 14 percent of the country's adult Jewish population have considered the possibility in the past few months. The potential emigrants are united neither by political preferences nor geographic location. What they do have in common is their young age: Only 2 percent of Israelis above the age of 65, and only 8 percent of Israelis between the ages of 45 and 54, have contemplated emigration in recent months. The critical mass of those displaying an interest in leaving the country are in the 28-34 age bracket: 28 percent of them have considered the possibility in the past few months.

These are Israelis at the beginning of their professional career, on the brink of starting a family, or the parents of small children. They bear the main burden of reserve duty, find it hard to buy a home or to meet mortgage payments, and are also well acquainted with many of the world's remote locales. By chance or not, they are also the commodity most sought-after by the major countries of immigration, which prefer (if at all) young people.

Since the start of the Intifada, journalist Ben Zion Citrin, who writes for Ha'aretz, has found himself in greater demand than ever before. An expert on emigration and the author of the book "All the Ways to Obtain a Second Passport," he has had his hands full in recent months. Those who contact him, he says, don't come out with a declaration that they are going to leave immediately, but are interested in the peace of mind that a second passport affords.

"They say that life in Israel has become dangerous. They are afraid of a large-scale war, afraid for the fate of their children. They want to be sure that if the Saigon story repeats itself here, they will be able to leave on the last helicopter. What characterizes all of them is panic, fear, hysteria, a sense of helplessness and anxiety. The fear of what tomorrow will bring.

"What broke them?" asks Citrin. "They are rational people who have lost hope. They think there is no longer a chance of peace. These people are the salt of the earth. They do military service and then they do reserve duty. When they ask me about the possibilities of emigrating, they do so with a sense of shame. Some of them tell me their parents are Holocaust survivors, they love the country, but they can't go on."

The most sought-after passports, Citrin says, are American, Canadian and Australian. The last two are preferred, because Canada and Australia are more willing to take new immigrants than other countries. Citrin himself tells those who contact him not to put all their eggs in one basket.

"I tell worried people that the solution is not the passport but a series of actions in which they `spread the eggs around.' In other words, to invest in one country, get a resident's status in another country, and buy a house in a third country. If the problem is fear of what will happen, don't put all your eggs in New York. Spreading yourself out is a smarter move."

The Canadian Embassy in Tel Aviv has seen a sharp rise in the number of Israelis requesting visas for permanent residency since the start of the Intifada nearly 11 months ago. Between January and October 2000, the embassy got about a hundred requests a month; since October, the number has risen to 150. Some 90 percent of those applying are Israelis who immigrated from the former Soviet Union in the past 10 years; 6 percent are Palestinians from the territories; and only 4 percent are veteran Israelis.

According to unofficial data, immigrants from the former Soviet Union also constitute the majority of visa applicants in the United States Embassy.

Psychological security

Zvi Ken-Tor is a partner in Schwartz-Ken-Tor, the biggest firm in Israel for obtaining overseas work permits.

"In the past few months," he reports, "there has been an increase of about 10 percent in the number of private individuals contacting us and wanting to examine the possibility of working abroad."

However, Ken-Tor adds, most of them will not find work overseas and will remain in Israel: "We have nothing to offer these people. These days, even if you have connections in the U.S., even if you are in high-tech, there is no guarantee that you will find work there," Ken-Tor says. "There is a wave of dismissals in the U.S. just like here. I would say that fewer Israelis will leave this year for an extended stay there than in 2000 - about 5,000 or 6,000 this year, compared to 8,000 last year. The direct reason for this decline is the crisis in the Nasdaq."

Shlomo Manor, who is in charge of the North America division of Re/Max real estate, says that the security and economic situation in Israel has generated a lot of interest in the purchase of real estate abroad.

"The increase is on the order of 30 percent as compared to last year. People want a fifth wheel, like for a car. An apartment abroad gives them psychological security. Their thinking is that if they have property abroad, they will have a place to escape to in a case like the Gulf War," he explains.

The people in contact with Manor are mainly professionals from affluent areas in Tel Aviv, Ramat Hasharon, Kfar Sava and the Denya and Ahuza neighborhoods of Haifa.

What are the preferred locations overseas?

Manor: "In Canada, it's Toronto. Real- estate prices there are 40 percent below what they were in 1993. Toronto is a large business and commercial center and the prices there are going to recover. As always, there is a demand for Manhattan, even though the prices there are high. Florida is also in high demand. In Europe, Hungary and the Czech Republic are in demand, mainly because they are soon going to become part of the European Union. In Spain, there is a demand for apartments on the Costa del Sol, and in France, people are looking for flats in the St. Germain section of Paris."

What's important for Israelis in buying a place abroad?

"The main thing is its salability. They want a house of 200 square meters made not of wood but of blocks - the more concrete and iron the better - and preferably with a garden and a swimming pool. The swimming pool: That the big dream. There are thousands of people who show an interest, but only a few of them will actually buy a dwelling abroad. If we get a hundred people to one of our meetings, maybe 20 will return for a second meeting and maybe five will buy an apartment. The decision is made by both spouses, so the decision-making process takes a long time.

"It's very pleasant to attend a meeting [focusing on] overseas real estate offers in a period like the present: It doesn't cost money, the hall is air-conditioned, you get coffee and cake. It's a nice, relaxing way to spend time, to play with the possibility of being a resident abroad."

Life as usual

After the coming season of Jewish holidays, Karen Shapira, 29, will leave her rented flat in Tel Aviv and return to Chicago. She immigrated to Israel about six years ago. Her motive back then: Zionism.

The daughter of Romanian parents who moved from Israel to the United States, Shapira fell in love with the country: "I had a passion to live in Israel. I arrived two weeks before they murdered Rabin. I found warm people, parties, fun, friends who came here. In the U.S., we're a minority. When you grow up as part of a minority, you always have to ask yourself questions. In Israel, I could feel comfortable with my identity."

Shapira is leaving because of a combination of two reasons. She lost her job - and her sense of personal security. She has a master's degree in business administration and in the past few years, worked in international marketing at a communications company.

"Four months ago, the company went bankrupt and I was fired. Since then, I haven't been able to find a job," she relates. "I tried everything. Placement companies, head-hunting, the want ads, the Internet. Nothing helped. There's no work. I have an MBA, I'm ready to do vocational retraining. What does a person have to do to find work here?

"But that's only part of the problem. The other part of the problem is the security situation. We've reached a situation where you can't even sit in a coffee shop. So it's impossible even to be unemployed. There is pressure in the air all the time, the atmosphere is bad."

It's easier for new immigrants to leave than it is for veteran Israelis. To begin with, many of them still have a foreign passport. Second, while veteran Israelis are under pressure from family and friends to stay, new immigrants have families in their home country who pressure them to come back.

Shai Rahat, sales manager in the division of personal items in Global Vision, a shipping firm, says that the past few months have seen an increase in the number of new immigrants from English-speaking countries who are leaving the country.

"This summer, I encountered dozens of families of veteran Israelis, and hundreds of families of new immigrants, who left the country. The sabras reach a decision to leave after a process. They tell me that the ones who leave are sane and those who stay behind are the crazy ones. They have been considering the option for five years; Zionism hasn't been part of the picture for a long time.

"For the English-speaking new immigrants, Zionism plays an important role. They believe in the Zionist idea, and very often they came here after giving up good jobs, and they would like to stay in the country. But when a bomb goes off under their nose, they break. They tell me that after terrorist attacks come the phone calls from their parents in the home country - `What are you doing in Israel? When are you coming home?'"

Karen Shapira says that the latest wave of terrorist bombings has affected her more than the previous ones: "I remember the day of the attack in the Apropos restaurant [in Tel Aviv] four years ago. That was 300 meters from my apartment; I was really close to the place. When I got home I could hear the ambulances. It was 2:30 in the afternoon. In the U.S., it was six in the morning. I called my mother and told her, `I'm sorry to wake you up, I just wanted to tell you I'm alive.' But when that happened, there was still hope. People thought that one day there might be peace. Now the feeling is that things aren't going to move. I find it hard to accept the approach that has developed in Israel about the attacks."

What do you mean?

Shapira: "When the attack at the Dolphinarium happened, I was at a party in Ramat Hahayal. People watched the news and went on with the party. A fatalistic approach has developed here, an approach of `seize the day.' In the States, despite the economic crunch, I'll find work. You can't compare the U.S. to Israel; it's like apples and oranges. They have 50 states, and all there is here is Gush Dan" - referring to metropolitan Tel Aviv.

Born to be emigrants

There is really no way to know how many Israelis who contemplated the idea of leaving the country during the past year have actually realized, or intend to realize, their intention. The picture one gets from the embassies is confusing. Some embassies report a considerable increase in the number of Israelis who want to obtain a passport and a permanent residency visa (in addition to the Canadian Embassy, there has been a significant surge of 12 percent in the British Embassy in the number of applications for passports in 2001 as compared with 2000). Other embassies, though, say they have not noticed any change (including the embassy of the United States - the number-one emigration destination of Israelis - and the embassy of the Netherlands, another popular country).

The data from shipping companies are also along the same lines: Some report a large increase in orders, others say the situation is unchanged, still others say there has been a decrease in orders to move household effects abroad.

What is clear is that the increase in the number of Israelis going abroad since the start of the Intifada balances out the number of Israelis who are sent abroad by their employer, particularly in the high-tech sphere. It is also clear that the Israelis who are leaving the country have liberated themselves from the stigma of being a yored - literally, "one who goes down," the opposite of oleh, or "one who goes up," which is the state's preferred term for "immigrant" (hence aliyah, or "immigration") - that was once derisively hurled at emigrants. In a world where flights out of the country are available and cheap, and moving from one land to another for employment is a routine matter, leaving is not necessarily forever.

Eran Dranger is the owner and CEO of Oceanus, one of the largest international shipping companies in Israel. The word "yeridah" (literally, "going down"), he says, has been erased from the lexicon of his clients. Israelis who go abroad for long stretches of time are these days "relocating" or "looking for opportunities."

"There is no Israeli who will tell you, `I am going and not coming back,' as they used to say in the past," Dranger says. "The Israeli sees the trip as an opportunity, not an admission of failure. Going abroad is said to be for a few years, even if in some cases it becomes a lifelong stay, either because of family reasons - marriage, establishing a family - or for economic reasons, such as finding a job that is hard to abandon."

The Ha'aretz Magazine survey shows that 43 percent of the Israelis who have had thoughts of leaving in the past few months prefer the United States, 18 percent have set their sights on Australia, 14 percent on Europe, 5 percent on Canada and 2 percent on Britain. The most important consideration for an Israeli in a foreign country is quality of life, Dranger says.

"The West Coast of the U.S. is the number-one preferred location, mainly because of the large Jewish and Israeli population there. In the past year, Australia has also become a preferred destination: There is a warm Jewish community there, they like Israelis and the cost of living is reasonable."

What do Israelis take with them when they go abroad?

Dranger: "If they are being sent by their employer, they take everything - furniture, carpets, paintings, kitchen utensils. The difference is that American and European companies don't pay for shipping, whereas Israeli companies do - but the Israeli companies don't pay for storage, so for Israelis who are sent abroad by their place of work, it's worth taking whatever they can.

"Electrical appliances are usually given to relatives, because apartments abroad usually come equipped with them, at least in part. The average worth of the household items that Israelis ship abroad is $25,000. Among the high-tech people, the contents of the container tend to have a conservative character. The furniture of Israelis is very functional, and they have relatively few art objects or collections."

What kind of emigrants do they make?

"Israelis are considered people who adapt to new surroundings with record speed. They learn new languages quickly, they are mobile, and there is an Israeli community in every large Western city that helps them acclimatize. The Israelis are migrants in their souls."

Surrender to terrorism

At some point in the next few months, after he finds a buyer for his apartment in the Sharon region, Amos Sahar, 35, a tour guide, will leave Israel with his wife and infant son.

"I admit it without reservations: I have surrendered to terrorism," he says. "I'm not proud of it, I'm not flaunting it, but there is no way to tell us to stay here if there is no way to guarantee our lives. Israel is one possibility among many in the world. I want to give my family the maximum happiness possible."

Sahar published his subversive approach on the Internet (on Ynet) immediately after the terrorist attack in June at the Dolphinarium in Tel Aviv. His statement drew hundreds of responses, which made it possible to get a grasp of the public mood. Most of those who sent messages attacked Sahar ferociously.

"In battle, I would be allowed to shoot you in the back," Oron, from Tel Aviv, wrote. "As long as you are a Jew, you won't have anywhere to escape to," Eyal, from Jerusalem, asserted. "Jewish history is filled with losers and cowards like you, from Josephus all the way to the yordim in Los Angeles, who have become car cleaners. Where do you think you will go? To the Bronx? Or maybe to France, to the neo-Nazis?"

Some, though, hiding under the anonymity of the Web, said they agreed with Sahar.

"I'm with you," wrote Dan. "I'm leaving, too," Keren stated. "True, sad and so true," Arik, from Modi'in, commented. "Unfortunately, I understand you," Alon, from Kfar Sava, wrote. "At last someone is saying and doing what the majority want but are afraid to say or do," Yoni, from Rehovot, wrote. "Where is your house and how much do you want for it?" asked a practical writer, who did not identify himself.

In the Ha'aretz Magazine survey, only a minority of respondents - 37 percent - said they took a negative or very negative approach to "Israelis who are leaving the country at this time." Sixteen percent said their attitude to the current crop of emigrants is "positive or very positive," and 43 percent said they were indifferent.

Nevertheless, the subject of emigration remains a sensitive issue. It wasn't difficult to find Israelis who serve in the army and love the homeland, but who spoke in the same vein as Amos Sahar, or even more sharply - but it was impossible to persuade them to speak on the record. They were afraid of what their parents, their friends, and their colleagues at work would say. In many homes, emigration is an issue in sharp dispute between husband and wife. Any unnecessary remark can fan the flames.

A small, boring place

Sahar says that the reactions to his article in his circle of friends were not aggressive: "They accepted it with understanding. It didn't lead to a crisis with any of them. I hate to be pompous, but these people are the salt of the earth, people who contribute a lot - reserve duty, regular army, career army. They all think there is nowhere to go from here. The problem is that for 53 years, the state hasn't been able to guarantee our security. That is the reason for leaving. The feeling is of a dead end. I am simply looking after the future of my little boy, who is just an infant."

Maybe you should stay and try to change the situation.

Sahar: "The solution is to leave, not to change the government. It's hard for me to say this, but we are leading our lives here like zombies. We walk on the street and someone could blow himself up and blow us up with him into thousands of chunks of flesh. I don't see any prospect for some sort of great change. My feeling - and not only my feeling, but my rational analysis - is that there is no way to ensure people's lives here."

Your friends, the landscape, the language - won't you miss them?

"I know every centimeter on the trails of the hills in this country, every plant. I could tell you all the folklore you want about the history of the Land of Israel. But by the same token, I can love the landscape somewhere else. My basic assumption is that everything we swallowed here from the moment we were born, whether it's in the Scouts or in a left-wing youth movement, is no more rooted than what exists in other places. I don't understand how I can love Israel when I am being shot at from every nook and cranny. I am not ready to live here according to the collective.

"With my two hands, I built a home, created a family and I am raising achild - and I want to live, not to be buried in the ground. I was born in order to be happy. I was at the scene of a terrorist attack and I saw the blood and the flesh. I don't want to be the next duck in the shooting gallery."

Can you understand the fierce reactions to what you say?

"Up to a point. If any of those people who are criticizing me in the name of the collective group of the Land of Israel loyalists were to speak to me after he or his relatives suffered a tragedy, he would probably speak differently. We were all raised on the well-known mantras that our grandparents didn't come [all the way] from Morocco or Poland so we would leave. But I am speaking the truth, which no one wants to acknowledge, and the truth is that it's impossible to go on living here."

Does your wife see things the same way?

"My wife, like me, did full army service, she pays income tax - and she was convinced before I was that we have to leave Israel. The parents on both sides accept what we are doing. What I hear from them is that if they were younger, and if not for the financial investments, they would also pack up and go to another country, like us. And I am talking about sabra parents on one side and about parents who came here 30 years ago from Eastern Europe for Zionist reasons on the other side - but they still say these same things. What I wrote doesn't just express the feelings of my generation."

Sahar's first idea was to move to an island country in the Pacific (not Vanuatu). In the end, he decided to move to a large Western country, which he asked me not to name, and began the immigration procedure.

His dream, he says, is "to buy a bed-and-breakfast place with 20 rooms on the shore of a lake and to know that I don't have to be stuck in traffic jams, and that if I am stuck in a traffic jam, that I won't be blown up. I have seen people living that way in other countries. I'm looking for a small, boring place, where people leave their door open when they go shopping. I know it's out there."

Still, the overwhelming majority of Israelis are staying put.

"We have friends - two couples - who have already gone abroad, and another two friends are in the process. It's sad. I can understand those who don't get the idea. When I was growing up, I read all kinds of literature against emigrating. We were all raised on that. For example, `To Come Back No Matter What,' by Maoz Habib. The story is about a boy whose parents decided to move to New York for economic reasons, and when the Yom Kippur War - or maybe it was the Six-Day War - breaks out, he makes his way back and brings his parents, too. He organizes his buddies to help, and in the end, the family returns to Israel.

"That is just another example of the things they preached to us from childhood, that an Israeli will always feel away from Israel when he is in a foreign country."

Will you take the book with you?

"Sure. It's part of my childhood landscape."

By Greg Myre

JERUSALEM (Associated Press - August 22, 2001) - With the conflict in the Middle East still burning after 11 months, Israelis have begun a vigorous debate over whether it's better to simply draw their own borders, building high walls and disentangling themselves from the Palestinians, rather than try to revive peace talks.

While the notion is opposed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, among others, a growing number of Israeli politicians say it is time to reconsider the separation approach.

Among them is former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who had largely vanished from public view after being soundly defeated by Sharon in February, but resurfaced this week as the most prominent proponent of unilateral separation.

"If we do not separate from the Palestinians, this country cannot continue to exist as a Jewish, Zionist, democratic state," Barak said.

The idea of separation has been raised before, and opponents have called it impractical, unfair and dangerous.

First, the two peoples' economies are tightly interwoven, with Israel relying heavily on Palestinian labor and the Palestinians dependent on Israeli products and services. Such a fence would also cost millions and would not solve the problem of Jewish settlers living outside the fence.

Palestinian leaders have said unilateral separation would fall far short of the minimum requirements for a Palestinian state. Drawing its own border would lead Israel to keep parts of the West Bank to include settlements and provide a defensible frontier. Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi calls that "collective punishment."

The Palestinians claim all of the West Bank and Gaza for a state and demand that all Jewish settlements be removed.

The separation idea has generated support among a broad cross-section of Israelis looking for a way out of the morass.

"We are facing many years, even generations, of hostile relations between Israelis and Palestinians," said Dan Schueftan, a Haifa University professor and author of "Disengagement," a book that offers a blueprint for a full Israeli-Palestinian divorce.

The Mideast violence, punctuated by Palestinian suicide bombings, has injected urgency into the Israeli discussion of how to physically separate the sides.

But Schueftan said demographics, not violence, is the most compelling reason for Israel to wall itself off from the Palestinians. Israeli Jews now account for 5 million of the 9 million people in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. But within 20 years, the higher Palestinian birthrate means that they will outnumber the Jews.

Israel, he argues, should start erecting walls along a self-defined border in the West Bank and place sharp restrictions on the number of Palestinians entering Israel. The door would be left open for negotiations but without deadline pressure.

Separation should be carried out in a "carefully staged manner over about four years," said Barak, with Israel building a border fence stretching for hundreds of miles through the hills and valleys of the West Bank.

At present, the Gaza Strip is fenced off. Though West Bank roads have Israeli military checkpoints, thousands of Palestinians bypass them, crossing into Israel each day on foot to work.

On the highly emotional issue of Jerusalem, where Palestinians are seeking a capital in the traditionally Arab eastern sector, Barak said the entire city should be kept under Israeli control for now.

However, "even Jerusalem clearly has to be fenced," he said.

Israeli opposition to unilateral separation comes from some on the right but also from former Barak associates, who favor giving up most of the West Bank but only in the framework of a peace treaty.

Shlomo Ben-Ami, Barak's foreign minister, told Israel TV on Wednesday that unilateral separation "would create a permanent situation of war between us and a hostile Palestinian state that would arise, and between us and the Muslim world."

The idea of separation was first proposed by the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and in 1996 officials projected that a separation zone between Israel and the West Bank could cost some $300 million.

Sharon says a final peace deal with the Palestinians is not presently possible, though he has opposed calls for separation.

No matter how creative the mapmaker, dozens of Israel's nearly 150 Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would remain isolated in Palestinian areas and would have to be evacuated under any separation plan.

Sharon was the leading advocate of building settlements for decades and doesn't want to abandon them, particularly now, when a pullout could be interpreted as a retreat under Palestinian fire.

Still, several current and former Cabinet members, a group that includes members of Sharon's right-wing Likud and the moderate Labor party, are talking about forming a movement to push for separation.

Right-wingers like the prospect of Israel's marking its borders without negotiating with Arafat, whom they blame for the violence.

Some Israeli moderates and liberals support the separation idea because Israel's military would pull back from parts of the Palestinian territories, reducing the grating checkpoint encounters that Palestinians so resent.

"This is a collective punishment against all the Palestinians," said a frustrated Amjed Mousa, who waited with his children at the Kalandia checkpoint, north of Jerusalem, while Israeli soldiers checked IDs. "These inhuman measures will never end this crisis."

Mid-East Realitieswww.middleeast.org

Source: http://www.middleeast.org/articles/2001/8/355.htm