Only a decade after the fall of apartheid in South Africa, after we all thought we had seen the end of that hateful system, we are witnessing the emergence of another apartheid-style regime, that of Israel over the incipient Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and parts of Jerusalem. This, at least, seems the likely outcome of the “peace process” begun in Oslo and continued, if haltingly, at the July Camp David summit. Whether a Palestinian state actually emerges from the Oslo process or Israel’s occupation becomes permanent, the essential elements of apartheid — exclusivity, inequality, separation, control, dependency, violations of human rights and suffering — are likely to deﬁne the relationship between Israel and the Occupied Territories/Palestine. For many, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s offer at Camp David of 94 percent (or so) of the West Bank sounds more than generous, and Yasser Arafat appears “inflexible,” “unreasonable” and even “irresponsible” for not accepting it. Leaving aside the numerous other issues complicating the negotiations between Barak and Arafat, let us consider here the question of territory.
Sovereign and contiguous territory is, of course, a prerequisite for a viable Palestinian state, and those within the Palestinian Authority (PA) who measure successful negotiations in terms of territory might be inclined to accept the Camp David proposal. But the question should be who will actually control the PA lands after the 94 percent solution floated at Camp David. (Some reports even pegged the ﬁgure at 95 percent.) Since 1967 Israel has laid a matrix of control over the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Because the matrix operates by control and not by conquest, it enables Israel to offer a generous 94 percent of the West Bank, creating the illusion of a just and viable settlement. Understanding how the matrix works is critical for comprehending the Oslo process as a whole. Focusing on the political process while ignoring the emerging realities on the ground is a sure recipe for a Palestinian bantustan.
The Matrix of Control
What is the matrix of control? It is an interlocking series of mechanisms, only a few of which require physical occupation of territory, that allow Israel to control every aspect of Palestinian life in the Occupied Territories. The matrix works like the Japanese game of Go. Instead of defeating your opponent as in chess, in Go you win by immobilizing your opponent, by gaining control of key points of a matrix so that every time s/he moves s/he encounters an obstacle of some kind. This strategy was used effectively in Vietnam, where small forces of Viet Cong were able to pin down some half-million American soldiers possessing overwhelming ﬁrepower. The matrix imposed by Israel in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, similar in appearance to a Go board, has virtually paralyzed the Palestinian population without “defeating” it or even conquering much territory.
For the most part the matrix relies upon subtle interventions performed under the guise of “proper administration,” “upholding the law,” “keeping the public order” and, of course, “security.” These interventions, largely bureaucratic and legal, are nevertheless backed by overwhelming military force, which Israel reserves for itself the right to employ. The active, forcible measures of control which can be taken against Palestinian communities and individuals include the extensive use of collaborators and undercover “mustarabi” army units, administrative detention, arrest, trial and torture. Some 2,000 arbitrary “orders” issued by the Military Commanders of the West Bank and Gaza have been issued since 1967, supplemented by policies formulated by the Civil Administration, under the direction of the Ministry of Defense.
The subtler sets of controls derive from “facts on the ground” and bureaucratic legalities (see sidebars on the following pages). Traditionally, Israel has created “facts on the ground” through land expropriation and settlements. Today, 195 exclusively Jewish settlements housing some 400,000 Israelis are sprinkled across the Occupied Territories: about 200,000 settlers live in the West Bank, 200,000 in East Jerusalem and 6,000 in Gaza (the latter occupying a fourth of the land, including most of the coastline). The most signiﬁcant development in recent years has been the consolidation of small settlements vulnerable to Palestinian demands of dismantling into settlement “blocs” of 50,000 people or more. The blocs control strategic corridors of the West Bank and interrupt the territorial contiguity of the Palestinians’ areas. Areas A, B, C and D in the West Bank, areas H-1 and H-2 in Hebron, Yellow, Green, Blue and White Areas in Gaza, and “open green spaces” of restricted housing covering more than half of Palestinian East Jerusalem—there is no freedom of movement between these four disconnected bantustans.
A system of highways and bypass roads links the settlements, creating additional barriers between Palestinian areas and incorporating the West Bank into Israel proper. Ironically, the bypass road project enjoys the tacit and misguided support of the Palestinian Authority. “Security borders” — the thick web of closed military areas and internal checkpoints in the Territories — enforce Israel’s declared policy of “separation” from the Palestinians and further hinder Palestinian movement.
Army bases occupy large tracts of land and keep weaponry ready for reasserting control through brute force. Other “facts on the ground” include industrial parks and continuing Israeli control of aquifers and holy places like Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and “Joseph’s Tomb” in Nablus.
Yet a third set of control mechanisms, the most subtle of all, are those of a bureaucratic or “legal” nature. They entangle Palestinians in restrictions, which trigger sanctions whenever Palestinians try to expand their life space. The West Bank and Gaza are permanently “closed,” violating freedom of movement of people and goods and impoverishing the Palestinian population. A system of permits causes, among other things, prolonged separation of family members and limits work, travel and study abroad. Building permits, enforced by house demolitions, arrests, ﬁnes and daily harassment, serve to conﬁne Palestinians to small enclaves. Expansive “master plans” around settlements (in contrast to the tight planning rings around Palestinian communities) allow Israel to contend that settlement building has been “frozen” within the larger rings. Planting of crops is restricted, and Israel controls the licensing and inspection of Palestinian businesses.
To all of this must be added, of course, the psychological costs of life under occupation: loss of life, imprisonment, torture, harassment, humiliation, anger and frustration, as well as traumas suffered by tens of thousands of Palestinians (especially children) who witnessed their homes being demolished, saw their loved ones beaten and humiliated, suffered from inadequate housing and lost opportunities to realize their potential in life.
The matrix of control, though it lends a benign and civil face to the occupation, is sustained only by raw military power. The June 16 edition of Yediot Aharonot quoted the Israeli chief of staff, Shaul Mofaz, speaking before soldiers at the Erez checkpoint in Gaza. “If tanks are needed [to restore order to the Occupied Territories],” he declared, “tanks will be brought in, and if attack helicopters are necessary, attack helicopters will be brought in.” Mofaz also noted that during the “events” marking the nakba he was “not far” from giving the order to use attack helicopters against Palestinian policemen. “Our ability today to cope with confrontations with Palestinians is better than in the past and the events of Nakba Day proved that.”
Not all the elements of the matrix of control will remain after a ﬁnal status agreement. Restrictions of housing should ease, for example, and administrative controls over Palestinian businesses should lessen — even though, given Israel’s guiding concepts of “separation” and “security borders,” the closure will undoubtedly remain. But once Israel’s settlements and security concerns are secured, it has little interest in administering the day-to-day affairs of the Palestinian population. Hegemony is far more effective than outright occupation. Only a few elements of the post-ﬁnal status matrix will directly concern territory. Settlements will occupy ﬁve to six percent of the West Bank, and perhaps be removed completely from Gaza; Israel will retain the Jordan Valley strip, roads and security borders. Not including East Jerusalem, where some limited administrative concessions are likely, Israel can easily offer 94 percent of the West Bank and maintain its control. Dismantling the matrix, then, is at least as important for the Palestinians as the amount of territory acquired in ﬁnal status talks.
Jerusalem: From City to Regional Wedge
For most people the main negotiating issues concerning Jerusalem appear to be control of the holy places and Palestinian demands for establishing their capital in the eastern part of the city. These, indeed, are important and difﬁcult issues. They mask, however, Jerusalem’s rapid transformation from a city to a metropolitan region that captures the entire central portion of the West Bank and prevents any viable Palestinian state from emerging.
Most public attention is focused on “municipal” Jerusalem, where the Palestinians are seeking to establish their capital. This is a city of some 630,000 people (430,000 Jews and 200,000 Palestinians) living within municipal boundaries gerrymandered by Israel in 1967. But the city proper is only part of the complicated reality of urban Jerusalem.
Israel presents Jerusalem as a “uniﬁed” city whose indivisibility derives from its role as the Jews’ sacred and historical capital. It is true that the Jews have a claim to the holy places in and around the Old City. But that historical core represents only three percent of the area of municipal Jerusalem. The other 97 percent was by no means exclusively Jewish. “West” Jerusalem, the 38 square kilometers ruled by Israel as its capital from 1948-67, was built only in the second half of the nineteenth century. Although West Jerusalem is almost exclusively Jewish (the main exception being part of Beit Safafa village), before 1948 about 40 percent of it was owned by Palestinians. As for “East” Jerusalem, although 70 square kilometers was annexed in 1967, only 6.5 square kilometers thereof actually constituted the Jordanian part of the city. The other 63.5 square kilometers — 90 percent of the land annexed by Israel as “East Jerusalem” — in fact belonged to 28 Palestinian West bank villages which suddenly found themselves part of an “indivisible,” “historic” and “sacred” Jewish city. Wallaja, Sawakhra and Kafr ‘Amr, Palestinian villages which until today Israelis have never heard of, suddenly acquired the same historical signiﬁcance for the Jewish people as the Western Wall, making Israeli claims to the entire area of “municipal” Jerusalem seem unassailable. An “inner ring” of settlements has been built on the land of this ﬁctitious “East Jerusalem” since 1967. This series of large satellite cities — Ramot, Rekhes Shuafat, Pisgat Ze’ev, Neveh Ya’akov, East Talpiot, Har Homa and Gilo, not to mention the incipient Israeli “neighborhoods” in Ra’s al-‘Amud, Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah — means that “East Jerusalem” now contains more Israelis (about 200,000) than Palestinians. Municipal Jerusalem is an artiﬁcial entity, the product of recent military conquest and settlement, rather than an organic city of historic value to the Jewish people.
“Greater” and “Metropolitan” Jerusalems
Municipal Jerusalem possesses a symbolic importance of the ﬁrst order for both Palestinians and Israelis. If the Palestinians acquire a signiﬁcant presence in the city — sovereignty over Abu Dis, al-Azariyya and Sawakhra, plus a mix of sovereignty and administrative jurisdiction over other Palestinian neighborhoods — it seems likely that the religious and national issues surrounding claims to the city can be resolved. As a regional wedge ensuring Israel’s hegemony over the West Bank, however, the wider metropolitan region embodied in “greater” and “metropolitan” Jerusalem assumes far more signiﬁcance than the municipality itself.
The municipal boundaries of Jerusalem were intended to secure Israeli domination over the “united” city in the ﬁrst decades of the occupation, but as Israel’s settlement presence grew and the need to extend its de facto control over larger areas of the West Bank became apparent after Oslo, control over the strategic Jerusalem region took on greater urgency. In 1995 the Israeli government adopted a master plan for a “Greater Jerusalem” whose “outer ring” of settlements — Har Adar, Givat Ze’ev, New Givon, Kiryat Sefer, Tel Zion and the settlements to the east of Ramallah, Ma’ale Adumim, Israeli building in Ra’s al-‘Amud, Efrat, the Etzion bloc and Beitar Illit — will virtually encircle the city. The outer ring’s population will grow to 250,000 in the next decade.
“Metropolitan” Jerusalem covers an even greater area. Its boundaries, incorporating a full 40 percent of the West Bank (440 square kilometers), stretch from Beit Shemesh in the west through Kiryat Sefer until and including Ramallah, then extend southeast through Ma’aleh Adumim almost to the Jordan River, there turning southwest to encompass Beit Sahour, Bethlehem, Efrat and the Etzion bloc, then heading west again through Beitar Illit and Tsur Hadassah to Beit Shemesh. In many ways metropolitan Jerusalem is the Occupation. Within its limits are found 75 percent of the West Bank settlers and the major centers of Israeli construction.
Metropolitan Jerusalem also reveals the hegemonic nature of Israel’s future relationship to a Palestinian state, as exempliﬁed by the matrix of control. The metropolitan region is deﬁned by infrastructural and economic realities on the ground, rather than in formalized plans. Simply by planning and constructing highways, industrial parks and satellite settlements around Jerusalem, an Israeli-controlled metropolis is created whose power lies in its urban activity, employment possibilities and transportation routes. This dynamic metropolitan region will render irrelevant political boundaries such as those between Jerusalem and Ramallah or Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Take the new industrial park, Sha’ar Binyamin, now being built at the Eastern Gate to metropolitan Jerusalem, southeast of Ramallah, as an example. This Israeli industrial park, being built by the Jerusalem municipality far beyond the municipal borders, will become an economic anchor for settlements — Kokhav Ya’akov, Tel Zion, Ma’ale Mikhmas, Almon, Psagot, Adam, all the way to Beit El and Ofra — that otherwise would be isolated from the Israeli and Jerusalem economies. More to the point, the park robs Ramallah of its economic dynamism, providing jobs and perhaps even sites for Palestinian industry that would otherwise be located in or around Ramallah. Once again, the issue is one of control, not simply territory. Metropolitan Jerusalem, in which Palestinian East Jerusalem is isolated from the wider Palestinian society and Israel retains control of the entire central section of the West Bank, renders the sovereignty of a future Palestinian state meaningless.
Bypass Roads and the Trans-Israel Highway
As mechanisms of control, roads are ideal. They are permanent structures. They flow through long stretches of territory, inducing a feeling of natural connectedness, yet they effectively claim and monopolize land by their very routes. Roads are banal. They can be made to look inoffensive and even benign and attractive — or, if need be, they can be made to look like imposing and intimidating barriers. They can be opened or closed, and used as a means to separate, unite or channel populations, instruments of control or development.
Two major Israeli construction projects, the Trans- Israel Highway (Highway 6) and the massive system of bypass and “security” roads being built throughout the West Bank, give clear physical expression to the matrix of control. The Trans-Israel Highway hugging the border of the West Bank is conceived as nothing less than “the new central spine of the country.” Hundreds of thousands of Israelis will be resettled in the many towns and cities planned along the length of the highway, especially along the Green Line and in areas of the Galilee heavily populated by Arabs. By bringing Israeli cities, towns and settlements on both sides of the Green Line together into one grid, the Trans-Israel Highway moves the country’s population center eastward, reconﬁguring the entire country. The metropolitan areas of Tel Aviv, Modi’in, Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim merge with the large blocs of settlements to the south of Jerusalem (Efrat, the Etzion bloc, Beitar Illit and, on the Israeli side, Beit Shemesh), as well as with those to the northwest (Rosh Ha’ayin, Ariel, Kiryat Sefer and Givat Ze’ev), transforming all of central Israel and the central West Bank into a huge and indivisible megalopolis that includes some 70 percent of the settler population. The 4,000 square kilometers running from Ashdod to Netanya, eastward to Nablus, down to Bethlehem and the Efrat and across again to Ashdod will constitute the country’s new “metropolitan core region.”
The grid of bypass roads now being laid over the West Bank is closely integrated with the Trans-Israeli Highway plan. First come the north-south highways. Route 60, running from Beersheva to Nazareth, neatly divides the West Bank in two. Route 80, running parallel to Route 60 from Arad to Jerusalem, encircles Bethlehem and, as the “Eastern Ring Road,” separates Abu Dis from Jerusalem proper. Route 90, passing through the Jordan Valley from Metualla to Eilat, constitutes the easternmost north-south axis. Now lay across this map the major east-west axes: the Trans-Samaria Highway (Road 5) stretching from the coast through Ariel to the Jordan Valley, Road 45 from Modi’in through northern Jerusalem to Ma’ale Adumim, Road 1 from Tel Aviv through central Jerusalem, Ma’ale Adumim and on to the Jordan River, and Road 7 (the “Ashdod-Amman Highway”), passing through Beitar Illit and the Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem to Ma’aleh Adumim and on to the Jordan River and Amman.
The emerging grid fully incorporates the West Bank into Israel proper. When we add the other 29 or so bypass roads criss-crossing the West Bank between Israeli settlement blocs, plus the Jerusalem Ring Road that protects Israeli control of municipal Jerusalem, we perceive a matrix of control that forecloses any possibility of a viable Palestinian state. Bypass roads in fact bypass Palestinian communities, preventing territorial contiguity even as they link Israeli settlements to the national Israeli grid. The “security” highways are also massive in scale — some 50 meters wide with 100-150 meters of fenced-in “sanitary” margins on each side, for a total width of three to four football ﬁelds. Placed over the West Bank, an area the size of Delaware but with triple the population, these highways have a major impact on Palestinian freedom of movement, the fragile and historic environment and Palestinian agriculture.
A State Within the Matrix
Let there be no mistake: Israel wants and needs a Palestinian state so that it will not have to grant citizenship to three million Palestinians or adopt a policy of outright apartheid. But it also wants control of the entire country, including the settlements, West Bank aquifers and other natural resources, Jerusalem, the regional economy, borders and “security.” Accordingly, the emergent Palestinian state must be truncated, weak and dependent. To be sure, only a Palestinian state with territorial contiguity and control of its borders will be viable. But territory is not enough. If Israel withdraws from 94 percent of the West Bank, its matrix of control will remain, and Palestinian sovereignty will be severely limited. Israel will resist moves to dismantle the matrix, and will attempt to deflect world attention to the political process while hiding the realities of control on the ground.
Barak, like Rabin, explicitly frames his vision of peace as separation: “Us Here, Them There.” An item in the June 21 edition of Ha’aretz relates that Barak has ordered the “Peace Directorate” of his ofﬁce to begin “the preparation of a ‘separation plan along the seam’ — the boundary line — between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.” The underlying concept is “separation between the two entities together with possibilities of cooperation.” The Israeli army may draft a proposal for building a fence between Israel and the PA, along with trenches and other engineering obstacles to prevent the crossing of the line. Also being considered are proposals for a number of passages between the two entities, the deployment of police units along the line, and ideas for economic and other cooperation on both sides of the line. But even when phrased in positive terms these proposals smack of Israeli hegemony. According to the article, “cooperation” means the establishment of industrial zones that can be entered from either direction, so as to “provide employment opportunities for the Palestinians without their having to enter Israel.” If the “passage” now being built between Bethlehem and Jerusalem is any guide to the future, the Erez-style “security border” will encourage anything but cooperation, freedom of movement and friendly relations between two equal states.
The issue in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, then, is not simply territory — it revolves around questions of control, viability and justice. A Palestinian state carved into small, disconnected enclaves, surrounded and indeed truncated by massive Israeli settlement blocs, subject to Israeli military and economic closures, unable to offer justice to its dispersed people and without its most sacred symbols of religion and identity, can hardly be called a viable state. “Peace” may be imposed, but unless it is just it will not be lasting. The term “apartheid” above is intended to highlight those elements of an imposed peace that will lead in the end not to true self-determination for the Palestinian people, but to their conﬁnement in a number of isolated and impoverished bantustans completely at Israel’s mercy. We must be able to evaluate a pending “peace agreement” for what it is: a genuine peace between equals, or a cover for occupation under another name.