Since Ariel Sharon coined the term "disengagement," opponents of Israeli territorial withdrawals have complained about the Orwellian nature of the term. And yet, as hard as opponents of the leftist view that Israel's security is enhanced by Israeli land transfers to Palestinian terrorists fought against the withdrawal policy and pointed out its dangers, their warnings were no match for the concept of "disengagement."
In Israel's geographic, ethnic, and military contexts, the term "disengagement" is first and foremost a psychological concept. It is concerned not with reality but with the deep-seated Israeli yearning to escape from our hostile environment. It holds the promise that Israel can determine a border that will separate us from our hostile neighbors.
In an article published immediately after the conclusion of Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and northern Samaria last August, Ha'aretz commentator Ari Shavit upheld the notion of the border. He claimed that the significance of the operation was that "after the era of the settlement ethos and after the era of the peace ethos, the turn has now come for the border ethos."
The problem is that a border can only be meaningful if the people on both sides of the divide recognize it and understand its meaning in the same way. Since the Palestinians do not recognize Israel's right to determine its borders, any border that Israel chooses will only operate in one direction. While Israel will honor Palestinian territorial integrity, the Palestinians will insist on their "right" to cross the border at will.
But reality is no match for psychological yearning. Israelis want to disengage.
Israelis are not unique in their desire to cut themselves off from their culturally alien - not to mention hostile - neighbors. The one-way border syndrome has stricken wide swaths of the Western world. For instance, the conflict between the US and Mexico over regulation of their border is becoming increasingly acute as the Mexican government continues to encourage its citizens to illegally migrate to the US.
Similarly, the leaders of the Arab states along the Mediterranean, such as Morocco, Tunis and Algeria, have obstinately refused repeated European requests to take steps to prevent the massive illegal immigration of their citizens into Europe.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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