by Izhak Schnell
This issue discusses territorial aspects of the search for a political solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Our basic proposition is that the conflict takes place between two national movements, and that the territorial aspect is at the core of the conflict and its solution. National ideologies, since the Westphalia Treaty in 1648, promote the right of every nation to sovereign control over its ancestral territory by means of the nation-state apparatus. Territoriality, as a bounded unit of space, may raise three main dilemmas: first, where should the boundary between two nation states be located? Second, in what ways does territory constitute and reinforce national identities? Third, what are the implications of open versus closed boundaries on the involved nation states? The current issue focuses on the third question.
The characteristics of open versus closed boundaries are perceived here to be multi-dimensional. They involve not only the military aspect of the border, but also geographical, economic, political and psychological aspects. Today, boundaries tend to open up as part of the globalization process. Most environmental challenges require international cooperation, economic development is highly dependent on an opening to international markets, and military closure of borders fails to prevent terrorist or missile attacks. Socially, people tend to tour other countries and to migrate in search of work, crossing boundaries more than ever in the past. Psychologically, closed boundaries may reduce conflict, but also interest in reconciliation, and leave each side with a feeling of being closed off in a ghetto. New challenges caused by globalization as well as the need to reconstruct boundaries based upon greater trust between the two sides have a different impact on Israelis and Palestinians in three spheres: the area of the borderline itself, the economic development of towns and villages in a wider border zone and the territory as a whole.
The papers demonstrate the contradictory moods among Israelis and Palestinians concerning the characteristics of boundaries. For the Palestinian writers the fence that is being built by Israel along the border symbolizes a one-sided, rude attempt to close the border as a mean of applying new forms of control. The Israeli papers hint at a growing disappointment with the peace process and doubts that the two sides are able to generate a reconciliation process without external intervention.
Beyond any general conclusion that may be deduced from the discussion, we may conclude that any attempt to close boundaries between Israel and Palestine may be destructive to Palestinian chances to close economic and psychological gaps in respect to Israel, and has only a small chance of reducing Palestinian motivation to continue fighting for full recognition. It seems that only relatively open boundaries followed by reconciliation between the two people, may set the foundation for a new future for both Palestinians and Israelis. The most optimistic aspect of the issue is the belief of many of the Palestinian and the Israeli writers that a return to the negotiation table is both necessary and possible, as the only means for separation along open boundaries and reconciliation.