The recent promises by Sharon's government to eliminate some, or even all, of the "illegal" settlement outposts (as if to imply that all the settlements are not equally illegal) should not be allowed to obscure Israel's long-term policy vis-�-vis the occupation, most concretely demonstrated by the vast, multimillion-dollar "separation wall" now under construction. Seventy-five miles of this forbidding structure have already been built, with a total projected length of more than 200 miles. The wall, which is more than twenty feet high, with guard towers, electronic fences and two-lane patrol roads, would annex up to 10 percent of the West Bank to Israel; it has already cut off thousands of Palestinians from the rest of the West Bank and from their agricultural lands. The 40,000 citizens of Qalqilya, for example, are now surrounded on three sides by this wall, and most of their farmland has been seized. They are now virtually imprisoned.
This is a grim scenario, but the situation still offers some possibility of forward movement. A recent poll by Israel's Jaffee Institute for Strategic Studies shows that 56 percent of Israelis--up from 48 percent last year--would "support a unilateral withdrawal from the territories in the context of a peace accord, even if that meant ceding all settlements." Here is the signpost for a realistic road map that could be charted by the Bush Administration. If the Administration were to insist unequivocally on a total Israeli withdrawal from the territories as part of a regional peace treaty, it would find widespread support within Israel, perhaps far more than expected. And Washington could use the power of its purse to ease the transition, guaranteeing a subsidy for every Israeli settler moving back to Israel proper. There would no doubt be resistance from the Washington lobbyists and Congress, but the Administration would have compelling arguments on its side. Thirty-two months of conflict have not only devastated the Palestinian civil society and economy, they have led Israel to a dead end. The dream of Greater Israel has become a nightmare.
It would be a very good thing if John Howard, his new role as the hyperally, suggested this course to the Bush administration. It would be an even better thing if George Bush looked more closely at the failure of Greater Israel and applied the lessons of that failure to the project for Greater America.