Wednesday, July 26, 2006


In the latest creative use of framing, yesterday a commentator referred to the Sheba Farms area as Israel's panhandle.  This is a narrow strip of land in northern Israel that juts into Lebanon.  Israel claims it can only negotiate sovereignty overit with Syria, while Syria gallantly insists the land belongs to Lebanon.  Whereby friction between Israel and its neighbors, even as it becomes bloodier, revolves around ever smaller areas.  You can can it nitpicking, or designer borders.  Here is Israel's argument: because we are surrounded by hostile neighbors, we have to make sure we have defensible borders. The Land of Israel, intended by the founders of the Israeli state after the Holocaust, was intended as a permanent safe haven for a persecuted minority.  Conflict has from time immemorial been about land.  But normally, it's about land for land's sake: more wheat, more timber, a stream, a coast, what have you; what I call "is-ness".  In the case of Israel, it's about  "such-ness": land that has certain characteristics that make it a defensible frontier, in other words, a designer frontier.

But however Israel designs its frontier - panhandle, Jordan Valley corridor, what have you, it's going to remain a very small country surrounded by hostile neighbors.  The United States learned on September 11th, 2001 that you can be a powerful country protected by two huge oceans, and still be vulnerable.  Is-ness and such-ness pertain not only to tangibles like frontiers, but also to nations: bullying or cooperative.

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